Wednesday, October 15, 2008
On October 14, SCOTUS heard oral arguments in Bartlett v. Strickland, a racially-cognizant redistricticting case from North Carolina, involving an interpretation of the Voting Rights Act, and a possible conflict with the North Carolina state constitution.
The state court opinion is Pender County v. Bartlett, 649 S.E.2d 364 (N.C. 2007). A transcript of the SCOTUS oral argument is here (thanks Election Law Blog). The New York Times and Washington Post have brief news reports.
In addition to the federalism issues raised by a possible conflict between the Voting Rights Act and the state constitution, the case has equal protection implications. Any racially-cognizant redistricting litigation in North Carolina occurs in the long shadows cast by SCOTUS decisions on equal protection challenges to redistricting in North Carolina. In Shaw v. Reno, 509 US 630 (1993), the Court held that there was a claim under the equal protection clause for the "bug-splattered on a windshield" and I-85 corridor snake districts, and remanded for consideration of whether the redistricting was narrowly tailored to meet a compelling governmental interest. In Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541 (1999), the Court again found the redistricting was a racial classification subject to equal protection challenges. And in Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U.S. 234 (2001), the Court decided that race was not the "predominant" factor in the redistricting.