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Court weighs role of race in Alabama redistricting

•  National News     updated  2014/11/13 15:31


The Supreme Court wrestled Wednesday with a dispute over the use of race to redraw political districts that turns the usual arguments on their heads.

The complicated case argued at the high court involves the use of a landmark voting rights law that led to the election of African-Americans across the South and Supreme Court decisions that limited the use of race to draw electoral maps.

Only in this case, Republicans in Alabama are invoking the Voting Rights Act to justify concentrating black voters in some legislative districts, and African-Americans challenging the state's legislative maps said the GOP relied too heavily on race.

"Do you realize you are making the argument that the opponents of black plaintiffs used to make here?" Justice Antonin Scalia asked a lawyer for the challengers. Scalia appeared favorable to the state's argument.

Justice Stephen Breyer was more skeptical of the state's claims, but he too found the role reversal curious. "This is an obverse and odd situation," Breyer told Alabama Solicitor General Andrew Brasher.

The outcome could come down to whether the justices think that race was the motivating factor in the state's 2012 redistricting or that Republicans merely tried to maximize their partisan advantage.

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