September 17, 2014

Race-based redistricting heads back to the Supreme Court

By Chris Kieser Attorney

On November 12, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a pair of legislative reapportionment cases: Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama.  Plaintiffs in these cases contend that the Alabama legislature violated the Equal Protection Clause by “packing” African-American voters into majority-minority districts and generally using racial quotas to draw district lines.  The three-judge district court rejected their argument because the plaintiffs could not prove that race was the “predominant factor” in the redistricting decisions.  Because race was not the “predominant factor,” the district lines would not be subjected to the most exacting form of judicial scrutiny.

PLF has not yet decided whether to get involved in these cases, but they do provide the Court with yet another opportunity to revisit the requirement that race be the “predominant factor” in redistricting before strict scrutiny will apply.  In recent years it has become increasingly apparent that race-based redistricting cases are an exception to the Court’s general Equal Protection jurisprudence.  Just last year in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case PLF participated in as amicus curiae, the Court reaffirmed that any race based action by government officials must satisfy the demanding strict scrutiny test.  Redistricting cases should be analyzed under the same standard.  Racial balancing, whether in legislative reapportionment, government contracting, or college admissions, reinforces demeaning stereotypes; it should not be tolerated in any form.

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