U.S. Supreme Court justices on Monday appeared unsure how to determine when states have unlawfully considered race while drawing legislative districts as they weighed cases in which Republicans in Virginia and North Carolina were accused of trying to dilute the clout of black voters.
Based on the two hours of oral arguments in the cases before the eight justices, it appeared that the voters who challenged Virginia’s plan may win but the outcome in the North Carolina case was less clear. Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sided with the court’s liberals in a ruling last year involving legislative districts in Alabama, could again be pivotal.
Race can be considered in redrawing the boundaries of voting districts only in certain instances, such as when states are seeking to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters.
In both cases before the justices, voters accused Republicans of packing black voters, who tend to back Democratic candidates, into certain districts to diminish their voting power and make surrounding districts more white and more likely to support Republicans.
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to throw out a lower court’s decision upholding a Republican-backed state legislature redistricting plan in Alabama that crammed black voters into certain districts in a way critics claimed lessened their influence at the polls.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)