Election 2016

12 Pieces of Proof Laying Bare the GOP Lust for Power and Racial Discrimination

A recent Supreme Court case might unwind GOP gerrymanders.

Photo Credit: Brennan Center for Justice

Editor's Note: Until last week's Supreme Court ruling on North Carolina's extreme redistricting, federal courts have tended to look at political mapmaking as either overtly partisan, which has been legal, or as racially discriminatory, which has been illegal. In North Carolina, the Court's 5-3 majority said race and party overlap and it told a lower court to oversee drawing new U.S. House districts. This list, from Sue Sturgis of Facing South, summarizes some of the history and issues surrounding extreme GOP gerrymanders in North Carolina and elsewhere.

Date on which the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that the congressional districts drawn by North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature in 2011 involved unconstitutional racial gerrymanders meant to dilute the power of black voters: 5/22/2017

1. Of the stricken map's 13 congressional districts, number that were controlled by Republicans: 10

(Editor's note: The Supreme Court majority said the state's GOP packed black voters into districts where African-American Democrats were already being elected to the House, thus bleaching or creating more adjacent House seats that could be won by the GOP by much smaller margins of victory: 56 percent for GOP vs. nearly 70 percent for Dem).

2. According to elections law expert Rick Hasen, number of "bombshells" in the decision's footnotes in which the Court said that in places like the U.S. South where race and party overlap to a high degree — what's known as "conjoined polarization" — they can be treated as proxies for one another: 2

3. Number of additional successful racial gerrymandering cases in the South and elsewhere the Supreme Court's ruling will lead to, according to Hasen: "many more"

4. Year in which North Carolina adopted a new congressional district map in response to the lower court's ruling in the case, with lawmakers explicitly calling it a partisan gerrymander: 2016

5. Year in which a lawsuit was filed over that map, calling it "one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history," with that case now awaiting action at the U.S. Supreme Court: 2016

6. Of the 13 districts in North Carolina's new congressional map, number that were still held by Republicans after last year's election: 10

7. If North Carolina's congressional seats were apportioned based on the share of votes each party's candidates got in last year's election, number fewer seats Republicans would hold: 3

8. In the three states with the most extremely partisan congressional districts — North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan — number of extra Republican seats accounted for by the distortion in the maps in each of the three elections since 2011: 7 to 10

9. In the 26 states that account for 85 percent of congressional districts, net benefit in terms of seats that Republicans derive from partisan bias in the current Congress: 16 to 17

10. Of the seven states with the greatest Republican bias in congressional seats, number in the South: 4*

11. Of the seven states with high partisan bias, number where a single political party had sole control of redistricting: 7

12. Date on which a trial is set to begin in Greensboro, North Carolina, over whether the state's new congressional maps are unconstitutionally partisan: 6/26/2017

* Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

(Click on figure to go to source. To comment on or to share this index, click here.)



Sue Sturgis is the editorial director of Facing South, the online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies. Her work has also appeared in other publications including The American Prospect, The Progressive and Salon.

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