The Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts Monday because race played too large a role in their creation, reports the AP. The justices ruled that Republicans who controlled the state legislature and governor's office in 2011 placed too many African-Americans in the districts, weakening African-American voting strength elsewhere. Both districts have since been redrawn, but even so Republicans maintained a 10-3 edge in congressional seats in 2016. Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the court, said the state did not offer compelling justification for its reliance on race in either district. The issue of race and redistricting one is a familiar one at the Supreme Court, and Kagan noted that one of the districts was "making its fifth(!) appearance before this court." The court unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling on District 1 in northeastern North Carolina.
Kagan wrote that the court will not "approve a racial gerrymander whose necessity is supported by no evidence." The justices split 5-3 on District 12 in the state's southwest. The state argued that Republicans who controlled redistricting wanted to leave the district in Democratic hands, so surrounding districts would be safer for Republicans. "The evidence offered ... adequately supports the conclusion that race, not politics, accounted for the district's reconfiguration," Kagan wrote. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the four liberal justices. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy dissented. "Partisan gerrymandering is always unsavory, but that is not the issue here," Alito wrote, per USA Today. "The issue is whether District 12 was drawn predominantly because of race. The record shows that it was not." Justice Neil Gorsuch did not take part.