The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today that the Voting Rights Act does not require racial gerrymandering to the nth degree — specifically, that it does not, at least, require such gerrymandering whenever doing so might give a minority group “swing” power in a created district if that group makes up less than 50 percent of the district’s population. This is a very important decision, since otherwise we would see lawsuits to compel gerrymandering not just when doing so could create a new district made up of a majority of minority voters (which is offensive and constitutionally problematic enough), but in practically any situation where there are any minority voters.
But the decision was only 5-4, so for the next four to eight years, its vitality depends on the vitality of those five. Worse, Justice Ginsburg in her dissent explicitly calls on Congress to overturn the majority opinion.
I hate to end on a down note, so I will note that Justice Kennedy’s opinion points out that a contrary construction of the Voting Rights Act would raise serious constitutional problems (a point, by the way, made in the amicus brief filed by Pacific Legal Foundation that the Center for Equal Opportunity and frequent NRO contributors Abigail Thernstrom and Hans von Spakovsky joined). So if Congress does act, the Court may still have the last word. Assuming, again, the five justices on the right side all stay healthy for a few years.