World Bulletin / News Desk
The US Supreme Court appeared split Monday during hearings in two cases that combine race and politics -- accusations that two states have packed African-Americans into a small number of districts to limit their voting clout.
The legislatures in North Carolina and Virginia stand accused of showing racial bias in redrawing the map of electoral districts to sideline African-American voters in the southern states, who traditionally back Democratic candidates.
The eight justices, who heard the cases less than a month after a bitterly partisan election that illustrated the divide between white and minority voters, must decide whether lawmakers indeed engaged in discriminatory practices.
"The ones they moved out were three-quarters or something white, and the ones they moved in were three-quarters or something black. So that's pretty similar," he said.
"It seems to me they paid a lot of attention to race."
- 'Very, very complicated' -
But North Carolina and Virginia insist they made good-faith efforts to abide by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlaws racial discrimination in the US electoral process.
The law requires states to take into account their minority populations -- generally prohibiting reducing minority-voting power through redistricting -- but not make that the defining principle in drawing up electoral maps.
"The Voting Rights Act makes the consideration of race absolutely necessary," argued Paul Clement, a lawyer representing both states.
The justices allowed the lawyers to speak at length, repeatedly grappling over the challenge of finding a balance in considering race when drawing political boundaries.
"This is all -- as you lay it out -- very, very complicated," Justice Samuel Alito said at one point.
"The state legislature has to redistrict a huge -- a large number of districts in a short amount of time using a multifactor, vague predominance standard."
However, Democrats say Republicans overstepped their authority to boost their political power by drawing lopsided maps in both states, which have an almost equal number of Republicans and Democrats.
"Legislators have a great deal of freedom in designing district maps but they cannot purposefully target and diminish the political power of minority voters for political gain," said The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that has submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in both cases.
The organization cited the case of North Carolina's redrawing of its congressional map in 2011, shortly after Democratic President Barack Obama, a target of the conservative Tea Party movement, lost his majority in the US House of Representatives.
The state legislature intentionally packed thousands of black voters into two congressional districts where they already consistently elected their preferred candidates, it said.
By raising the populations of voting-age African-Americans in those districts to above 50 percent, "the General Assembly sought to diminish the impact of black voters in other parts of the state," the center said.
Last Mod: 06 Aralık 2016, 01:00