The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the case of Harris v. McCrory, the case over North Carolina lawmakers’ redistricting of the state’s 13 congressional districts, which the defense claims were illegal ‘gerrymandered’ based on race.
The Justices heard oral arguments for roughly two hours, even allowing both sides to speak for extended periods of time, a move that is extremely rare. The fact that the Justices allowed both sides such extensive amounts of time to make their arguments proves the complexity of the case.
At one point, Justice Samuel Alito even remarked, “This is all very, very complicated.”
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Democrats and civil rights groups who brought the case against the state of North Carolina, claim lawmakers redrew the districts to unnecessarily put black citizens into some districts in order to dilute the minority presence in other districts across the state.
The lawyer arguing against the state, Mark Elias, Hillary Clinton’s former top campaign attorney, claimed the entire goal of the redistricting for Republicans was to ‘diminish’ the ability of minority voters to elect their preferred candidates.
On the other side, Paul Clement, the state’s lawyer in the matter, argued that North Carolina, like many other states, did the best they could walking the fine line between federal law and constitutional requirements.
Federal law, established by the Voting Rights Act, requires states to use race as a factor when drawing electoral districts. But constitutional requirements, established by previous Supreme Court decisions, dictate that states cannot use race as a ‘dominate’ factor in such processes because of the Equal Protections Clause.
Based on today’s proceedings, it appears most Justices are divided on the North Carolina case, as well as a similar Virginia case, by the Conservative or liberal ideologies that they are known to hold.
However, while the position others may take can often be easy to predict, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s notorious swing vote, may hold the decisive vote in both cases.