The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday faulted North Carolina again in a racially tinged voting rights case, upholding a lower court’s ruling that Republican lawmakers mapped state legislative districts in a way that diluted the clout of black voters. But the justices also threw out another ruling by the same panel of three federal judges ordering special elections by November to fill the state legislature seats at issue in the dispute. The high court, with no recorded dissents, sent the case back to the lower court to reconsider whether special elections are necessary. The Supreme Court in January put the matter of special elections on hold while it decided whether to hear the state’s appeal of the ruling.
The justices upheld an August 2016 ruling by the three-judge panel that the districts were racial “gerrymanders,” with boundaries drawn to diminish the voting power of minorities, and violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The lower court found that the Republican-led state legislature had crammed black voters into a limited number of districts in order to lessen their statewide electoral power.
At issue were nine state Senate districts and 19 state House districts, as carved out in a plan adopted by the legislature in 2011.
The Supreme Court has dealt with North Carolina voting rights cases three times in the past three weeks.