Court To Review District Re-Mapping (FWD)

Tue Sep 29 19:08:19 PDT 1998

Yet another racial gerrymander case.  When will a correctly done proportional
representation case make it to the Supreme Court ?
Date:  Tue, Sep 29, 1998 10:53 AM EDT
From:  SErtelt
Subj:  CAMPEL-L: Court to Review NC District Maps Again (news)

Court To Review District Re-Mapping

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court today re-entered the controversy over the
use of race in drawing election districts, agreeing to take a third look at
North Carolina's much-disputed congressional boundaries.

The court said it will hear the state's argument that a voting plan struck
down by a lower court last spring should have been upheld because race was not
the main factor in drawing the districts.

This summer, the lower court approved a new set of congressional districts
that are being used for this November's election.

The Supreme Court has sought to minimize the use of race in drawing election
districts since 1993, the first time it examined North Carolina's 12th
Congressional District. The ruling, which stunned civil rights advocates, said
districts designed to benefit racial minorities smack of ``political
apartheid'' and might violate white voters' rights.

North Carolina's redistricting plan had created two majority-black districts
-- the 1st and 12th -- and sent the first blacks to Congress from that state
since 1901. The 12th district now is represented by Democrat Mel Watts.

In 1995, the highest court ruled in a Georgia case that districts designed to
improve minority voters' chances of electing candidates of their choice must
be presumed unlawful if race was the predominant factor in creating them.

The next year, the justices struck down North Carolina's 12th District on
grounds race was the principal consideration in its creation.

The case to be studied by the justices involves only that district.

State lawmakers approved a new districting plan in 1997 that made the
bizarrely shaped 12th District more compact and reduced its black population
from 57 percent to 47 percent.

A three-judge federal court approved the plan in September 1997. A new
challenge was filed by voters who contended the 1st and 12th districts still
were unlawfully based on race.

A new three-judge panel declared the ``unusually shaped'' 12th District
unlawful last April, noting it included nearly all precincts with more than 40
percent black population between Charlotte and Greensboro.

State lawmakers approved new districts in May that reduced the 12th District's
minority population to 35 percent. The federal court ruled the plan could be
used for this year's elections but said it would hear a challenge to the 1st
District later.

In the appeal acted on today, the state's lawyers said the 1997 version of the
district was based on ``partisan election data, not race.'' A district's
``somewhat irregular'' shape should not open it to challenge under the
strictest legal standard when it is not majority-black and there is no direct
evidence that it was unlawfully based on race, state lawyers said.

The voters' attorneys said the argument that majority-black precincts share
political interests ``relies on racial stereotyping.'' Circumstantial evidence
is enough to prove an unlawful racial motive, they said.

The case is Hunt vs. Cromartie, 98-85.

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