The professional Left and the drivebys are having their fun over the latest US Supreme Court finding that North Carolina and the ruling Republicans in Raleigh focused too much on race in formulating its current congressional districts. The same people now expressing outrage over race-based districts, and hurling racism charges at Republicans, were the same people demanding race-based districts — by any means necessary — way back in the 80s and 90s.
The 12th Congressional District in North Carolina, as put in place for the 1992 election, is perhaps America’s best known congressional district. (The original Massachusetts “gerrymander” in 1812 may be more famous, but it was a legislative district.) North Carolina’s 12th was a kind of in vitro offspring of an unromantic union: Father was the 1980s/1990s judicial and administrative decisions under the Voting Rights Act, and Mother was the partisan and personal politics that have traditionally been at redistricting’s core. The laboratory that made this birth possible was the computer technology that became available for the 1990s redistricting cycle. The progeny won no Beautiful Baby contests. A Wall Street Journal editorial described the 12th as “political pornography.” Known as the “I-85 district,” the12th stretched 160 miles across the central Piedmont region of the State, for part of its length no wider than the freeway right-of-way.
The 1991 North Carolina General Assembly originally enacted a congressional plan with one minority district, the 1st, in the northeastern part of the State where demographics make a compact Black district easier to draw, especially if joined with the Black precincts of nearby Durham. That plan was disapproved by the U.S. Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act because of alleged lack of minority representation. (North Carolina’s Black population amounts to 22 percent of the total population. One district is only 8 percent of 12 districts. Two of 12 is 16 percent.)
The General Assembly, then controlled by Democrats, responded in early 1992 by enacting the famous 12th. Republican legislators had proposed several plans that contained two minority districts; in drawing the 12th, the Democratic leaders simply picked one of those plans and retooled it to be friendlier to Democrats.[…]
*What? You mean all of these currently outraged left-wing types thought Mel Watt’s caterpillar shaped district was pretty cool?* Democrats — in the big time majority in Raleigh — ran with the Republican idea of packing as many black folks as possible into these two districts?
It’s funny. Most of the outrage over North Carolina’s districts has been from conservatives. Here are some of the court cases:
[…] In drawing the 12th in 1992, the General Assembly made use of the politically powerful Black community of Durham, removing it from the one minority district of the rejected 1991 plan. The 1st district in the 1992 plan was a predominantly Black district that, without Durham, was less compact. The State would later defend the two minority districts of 1992 as based on demographics other than race, with the 12th an urban Piedmont district and the 1st a rural eastern district.
North Carolina had been the center of redistricting litigation in the 1980s, with the challenge to its legislative districts in Gingles v.Edmisten, (later Thornburg v. Gingles) providing the occasion for the Supreme Court’s test for when minority districts were required. In its turn, the 1990s redistricting drew several challenges. The 12th Congressional District was not the only target, but it was the most notable one and the one that triggered redistricting law’s major innovation of the 1990s, the “Shaw Doctrine.”
Pope v. Blue, 809 F. Supp. 392 (W.D. N.C. 1992), aff’d mem. 113 S. Ct. 30 (1992)
Several Republican plaintiffs challenged the 1992 congressional plan on the grounds that it lacked compactness and lacked respect for communities of interest. The case was dismissed for failing to state a claim on which relief could be granted. That judgment was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in September 1992.
Yes, THAT was THE Art Pope vs. THE Dan Blue.
Shaw v. Barr, 808 F. Supp. 461 (W.D. N.C. 1992), rev’d sub nom. Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993)
A different set of plaintiffs challenged the 1992 congressional plan, and specifically the 12th District, on the ground that it failed to respect communities of interest. The plaintiff’s attorney, Robinson O. Everett, was a Democrat, a Duke University Law Professor, and former Chief Justice of the U.S. Military Court of Appeals. (The State Republican Party later joined as a plaintiff-intervenor.) Mr. Everett alleged in the lawsuit, among other things, that Mr. Barr, the U.S. Attorney General, had misinterpreted the Voting Rights Act by, in effect, requiring racial quotas in redistricting as a standard for approval under Section 5. In April 1992, a three-judge federal panel in the Eastern District of North Carolina dismissed the lawsuit as failing to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The panel also ruled that it had no jurisdiction over a claim against the U.S. Attorney General. The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Shaw v. Reno,509 U.S. 630 (1993)
On appeal as Shaw v. Reno, the legal theory on which the attack was based was endorsed by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court did not actually rule that the plan was invalid. It only ruled that a racial gerrymander may, in some circumstances, violate the Equal Protection Clause. The case was remanded to the district court to determine whether the districts had been drawn on the basis of race and, if so, whether the racial gerrymander that resulted was “narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest.” 509 U.S. ____ (slip op. at 26).
The five-to-four majority opined that “reapportionment is one area in which appearances do matter.” 509 U.S. 630, ____ (slip op. at 15). As Justice O’Connor said in her opinion for the Court:
A reapportionment plan that includes in one district individuals who belong to the same race, but who are otherwise widely separated by geographical and political boundaries, and who may have little in common with one another but the color of their skin, bears an uncomfortable resemblance to political apartheid. It reinforces the perception that members of the same racial group–regardless of their age, education, economic status, or the community in which they live–think alike, share the same political interests, and will prefer the same candidates at the polls . . . . By perpetuating such notions, a racial gerrymander may exacerbate the very patterns of racial bloc voting that majority-minority districting is sometimes said to counteract.509 U.S. 630, ____ (slip op. at 15-16).
The Court said that a redistricting plan that is so bizarre on its face that it is unexplainable on grounds other than race demands the same strict scrutiny given to other state laws that classify citizens by race. 509 U.S. 630, ____ (slip op. at 12).
The Court did not say that race-based redistricting is always unconstitutional. The Court recognized that:
[R]edistricting differs from other kinds of state decisionmaking in that the legislature is always aware of race when it draws district lines, just as it is aware of age, economic status, religious and political persuasion, and a variety of other demographic factors. That sort of race consciousness does not lead inevitably to impermissible race discrimination. . . . [W]hen members of a racial group live together in one community, a reapportionment plan that concentrates members of the group in one district and excludes them from others may reflect wholly legitimate purposes. The district lines may be drawn, for example, to provide for compact districts of contiguous territory, or to maintain the integrity of political subdivisions.[…]
Back in 1992-93, When the Democrats ran the show in DC and Raleigh, courts were saying this stuff was all A-OKAY. Just like with Plessy vs. Ferguson and Dred Scott, sentiments from the bench do change over time.
I happen to believe the current court made a good move. Honest redistricting ought to be about putting communities with common interests together. Right now, we in Pinehurst are in a congressional district with folks who live in metro Charlotte. Folks in Sanford and Dunn — who share more in common with us here in Moore County — are lumped into districts with Greensboro and Raleigh.
Playing the race card in redistricting just because the libs do it doesn’t make it right. (Of course, the feds and the courts have been demanding it for decades.) Perhaps this will finally give us the opportunity to do it right.