The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday approved a mostly black congressional district in North Carolina that has been challenged since the early 1990s, giving states more leeway to consider race in the process of redrawing districts according to data from the 2000 census. NC District 12, where 46 percent of voters are black, is represented by Melvin Watt (D), one of two blacks elected to the Congress in 1992 from a state that had not elected a black since 1901. The 5-4 Supreme Court decision marks the first time the high court has upheld a district challenged because of its heavy minority voting population.
Lower courts ruled that the district violated constitutional prohibitions against racial discrimination, but the Supreme Court argued that the legislature was creating a Democratic, not a black, district and that, in this district, race and voting record were proven to be correlated. In fact, 90 percent of blacks in North Carolina vote Demcratic. Legal scholars note that the ruling will allow states to create black or Hispanic districts as long as they can show that they relied on data about voting behavior and not on stereotypes about particular racial groups. Democrats praised the decision, saying that it may prevent Republicans from “packing” districts – relegating minority voters to just a few districts, and ensuring that the majority of districts remain white and Republican.