09 Mar 2009 Supreme Court Decision Against Racial Gerrymandering Hailed
Washington, D.C. – Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie today hailed a new U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting the use of the Voting Rights Act to supercede other laws to create predominantly black voting districts, saying the decision is a new protection against the abuse of civil rights laws for potential partisan gain.
“It continues to confound me that those whose party is responsible for preventing blacks from voting until 1964 now want to illegally redefine voting districts because it serves their best interest,” said Massie. “It should go without saying that creating special black voting districts – for partisan gain or otherwise – is against the spirit of civil rights.”
In the case of Bartlett v. Strickland, a 5-4 decision by the Court struck down the redistricting of District 18 in North Carolina. The prevailing concern among lawmakers involved in the redistricting process after the last census was adherence to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This requires the political process to be “open equally” to minority voters. In doing so, a state law prohibiting the division of counties to create voting districts was violated to raise the percentage of blacks of voting age in the new District 18 from 35 percent to over 39 percent. One of the affected counties challenged the North Carolina General Assembly’s process.
This decision is important because it can prevent the political manipulation of voting district boundaries based on race. In his majority opinion, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: “Section 2 does not guarantee minority voters an electoral advantage.”
District 18, as previously drawn, gave Democrats a 59 percent to 41 percent electoral advantage among registered voters. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), however, criticized the decision as a “cramped reading” of the Voting Rights Act and a “serious blow” to civil rights.
“The only cramped reading is on the part of Leahy and his ilk. Even if his rhetoric is spoken without intended malice, his comments aid the nefarious work of partisans who seek to preserve ill-gotten political gains under the guise of promoting civil rights,” added Project 21’s Massie. “It’s amazing the things that liberals can say with a straight face.”
Project 21 is a black leadership network dedicated to promoting free-market ideals and the diversity of opinion among black Americans.
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.