I hate racial gerrymandering cases because they don’t fit neatly into a defensible, logically consistent, electoral philosophy. Racial gerrymandering is an unprincipled, highly practical, necessary grotesquerie of representative democracy. Absent mountains or rivers or some other kinds of geological formations, drawing district lines is fundamentally arbitrary. I get that some people like geometric shapes, but just because your district looks like a square and mine looks like a half-eaten snow crab doesn’t make your district more “fair.” Once you draw the line, you are making a decision to exclude some people and include others, and we shouldn’t pretend to be able to do that at the political level without some knowledge of the racial breakdown of the voters. Yet our rules say that race cannot be the “predominant” factor in drawing districts: which is kind of like saying “Don’t stare at the miniature disco ball in my eye socket!” Simply saying that race can’t be a predominant factor makes race a predominant factor in showing that race wasn’t a predominant factor.
And that’s before you get into all the outcome determinative questions about who is using racial gerrymanders for what purpose? Are you trying to ensure that the ten percent black population gets ten percent of the seats? That seems “good,” though I also don’t think “gets the seats they deserve” strikes the right tone. Are you trying to herd them all into a few districts, leaving arguably non-black politicians free to dominate their areas without even pretending to care about minority concerns? That seems “bad.”
My dad used to be a local politician. I’ve seen him draw districts. It’s gross and fascinating and important and heartbreaking. You could argue that racial gerrymandering is primarily responsible for our polarized politics. You could also argue that without racial gerrymandering, “race-neutral” Republicans could effectively disenfranchise even more black voters. “Sorry, but I can’t draw all these trapezoids without splitting your community eight different ways. Geometry isn’t racist.”