Monday, the Supreme Court called a halt to the most flagrant example of racial gerrymandering on the U.S. political map - North Carolina's serpentine 12th Congressional District. By a bare 5-4 majority, the justices ordered the state to prove the "bizarre" district is unavoidable or go back to the drawing boards.
The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to keep the promise of the 15th Amendment and enable Southern blacks to vote unhindered by literacy tests, poll taxes and other exclusionary devices. In the 1980s, the act was transformed by Congress, the Justice Department and federal courts into a program of racial gerrymandering. The Justice Department routinely requires legislatures to carve out the maximum number of "safe" districts where blacks and other minority voters vastly outnumber whites. North Carolina, with a 22% black population, was ordered to make two of its 12 congressional districts safe for black candidates. The goal - more minorities winning office - is laudable. For the political process to work, everyone must feel included and see people like him- or herself succeeding. But racial gerrymandering is the wrong means. It segregates Americans into black and white districts, rather than encouraging them to find common interests, and it violates the Constitution by stripping some whites of their most precious political liberty - the right to be represented.
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