The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to consider a lower court decision that struck down a congressional district in South Carolina as an illegal racial gerrymander.
The lower court held that the congressional district – which includes Charleston – “constituted and unconstitutional racial gerrymander in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because race was the predominant factor in the adoption of the” plan.
A lawyer for South Carolina Republicans asked the Supreme Court to take up the case and argued that the Republican-led legislature took politics into consideration when drawing the map and that the use of race did not predominate in its decision-making process.
“This case may well provide the court with another opportunity to further narrow the circumstances in which minority voters can challenge legislative districts as impermissible racial gerrymanders – following on the Alabama cases the court is set to decide in the next six weeks,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
“Building on the court’s 2019 ruling that federal courts can’t review partisan gerrymandering, these cases all revolve around the idea that lower federal courts are too frequently striking down as unlawful racial gerrymanders maps that may instead be unreviewable partisan gerrymanders,” Vladeck added.
The lawyer for the Republican lawmakers told the justices in court papers that the three-judge district court failed to take into consideration the General Assembly’s “good faith” effort to draw lines.
“The three-judge panel abandoned all pretext of extraordinary caution in this case,” the lawyer argued.
Lawyers for civil rights groups, including the NAACP, told the justices that after an eight-day trial the lower court “unanimously found that race was the predominate motivating factor” in the general assembly’s drawing of the district at issue, charging that the enacted plan “moves 62% of Black Charlestonians (almost 30,000 people)” from the district to another district.
“It is a textbook example of unlawfully placing a significant number of voters within or without a particular district predominately on the basis of race,” the NAACP said.
The challengers to the redrawn map – the South Carolina NAACP and Taiwan Scott, a voter in the state – said in a statement on Monday that they’re “hopeful that the Supreme Court will come to the same conclusion that the federal panel did in ruling correctly that our state’s 2022 enacted congressional map was discriminatorily drawn.”
“South Carolina’s congressional map is the latest instance in our state’s long, painful history of racial discrimination that must be remedied,” they added. “As the case moves to oral argument, we implore the court to uphold the panel’s decision and protect Black South Carolina voters from this egregious form of discrimination.”
The case will be heard next term.
This story has been updated with additional details.