What the Black Men Who Identify With Brett Kavanaugh Are Missing

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On Tuesday night, I was in an auditorium with 100 black men in the city of Baltimore, when the subject pivoted to Brett Kavanaugh. I expected to hear frustration that the sexual-assault allegations against him had failed to derail his Supreme Court appointment. Instead, I encountered sympathy. One man stood up and asked, passionately, “What happened to due process?” He was met with a smattering of applause, and an array of head nods.

If you think Kavanaugh receiving some measure of support from black men in inner-city Baltimore is as strange as Taylor Swift suddenly feeling the need to become a modern-day Fannie Lou Hamer, then brace yourself: The caping for Kavanaugh does make a twisted kind of sense. Countless times, black men have had to witness the careers and reputations of other black men ruthlessly destroyed because of unproved rape and sexual-assault accusations. And as that Baltimore audience member also argued, if the claims were made by a white woman, expect the damage to be triple.

 

More from Jemele Hill @The Atlantic

Posted by Libergirl

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Abolish the Supreme Court

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Supreme Court without Anthony KennedySupreme Court without Anthony Kennedy (Photo: Screen capture

The Supreme Court as we know it is an abomination, and this is a rare issue on which Americans from across the ideological spectrum should agree.

Whether you believe that liberal, robed tyrants have jammed gay rights and abortion and all manner of social ills down the throats of the American people, or you’re outraged by this conservative Court purposefully killing campaign finance laws and gutting the Voting Rights Act, the fact that five unelected individuals with lifetime gigs that insulate them from both popular and elite opinion can veto democratically enacted legislation should be intolerable.

But the problem with this creaky, increasingly illegitimate institution goes far deeper than that, as the farcical confirmation process we’re living through with Brett Kavanaugh illustrates quite clearly. What really distorts the purpose and fairness of the Court is that it’s become ever more explicitly partisan.

As historian Jill Lepore wrote for The New York Times this week, the Constitution “was understood by its framers as a machine, a precisely constructed instrument whose measures — its separation of powers, its checks and balances — were mechanical devices, as intricate as the gears of a clock, designed to thwart tyrants, mobs and demagogues, and to prevent the forming of factions.”

“Factions,” as they were known in the 18th century, are called political parties today. We have two branches of government — Congress and the presidency — that are inherently political and unavoidably partisan. In theory, the judicial branch should be a neutral arbiter of the disputes that arise between the federal government and the states, and among the co-equal branches of government. These disputes should be adjudicated by the best, most nimble legal minds in the country rather than by justices whose judicial opinions are easily predicted by their ideological and partisan leanings.

If the system were working as designed, Brett Kavanaugh would not be a nominee. Before he lied to Congress, and years before Christine Blasey Ford came forward to allege that he attempted to rape her in the 1980s, Kavanaugh was, as Mike Tomasky wrote for The Daily Beast, “a certain kind of lawyer. He was a very political, partisan, and ideological lawyer. He was, in fact, a political operative with a J.D. degree.” As an example, Tomasky details how Kavanaugh, when he was working for Ken Starr, “spent time and taxpayer dollars engaging in political vendettas and chasing down conspiracy theories.” Peddling nonsense about Hillary Clinton having had an affair with Vince Foster, a White House aide who committed suicide and then became an object of fascination within the fever swamps of the right, should be disqualifying for such a powerful and exalted intellectual position.

We’re now suffering through Potemkin hearings in which Senators act as if everyone doesn’t know exactly how Justice Kavanaugh would rule on the issues of the day. Back in July, Charlie Savage reported for The New York Times that Kavanaugh “spent the past dozen years embracing the philosophy of the conservative legal movement as he assembled a record on the powerful federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit… on issues as diverse as abortion and gun rights to disputes over national-security policies and business regulations, Judge Kavanaugh emphasized textual limitations while frequently favoring corporations over regulators, and the government over individuals claiming rights violations.”

While a polarized, insulated Court should be intolerable for people on both the right and the left, it’s especially problematic for progressives. Republicans have lost the popular vote for president in six of the past seven contests. They know they face demographic headwinds with an increasingly diverse electorate, and as a result, they’ve put an almost manic emphasis on controlling the Court. Conservative legal groups have spent tens of millions of dollars shaping the federal judiciary; Mitch McConnell held Antonin Scalia’s seat open for over a year to keep Barack Obama from appointing a successor.

Some on the left have urged Democrats to respond to that egregious theft by packing the courts if and when they regain power. The Constitution allows it, but doing so risks an endless tit-for-tat scenario, with Republicans responding in kind whenever the pendulum swings back their way.

Term limits are probably the most frequently discussed reform for the Court. But while killing lifetime appointments is necessary, it’s also insufficient. If Justices served for, say, 10-year terms, it would lower the stakes somewhat, and perhaps usher in some comity in the process, but it wouldn’t get to the core issue of selecting justices for their ideological commitment rather than the quality of their jurisprudence or legal scholarship. (Term limits are also Constitutionally questionable, although there are potential work-arounds for that issue.)

The time has come to seriously consider the possibility of scrapping the Supreme Court as we know it, and replacing it with a different structure entirely. As those who advocate packing the courts point out, the Constitution doesn’t spell out how many justices sit on the bench. Why not create a Court with, say, 30 of the top legal thinkers in the country, from which nine or 11 or whatever number are randomly drawn to hear each case? That would diminish the power of each individual on the court, and make different groups of justices with a wider range of experience engage one another’s arguments. And we should have them serve staggered, eight- or ten-year terms, so there’s a constant flow of fresh blood and fresh thinking to the Court, and a president can’t luck into reshaping the judiciary for decades to come just because he or she happens to be in office when a couple of Justices die or can no longer soldier on.

Just as importantly, we need to take the selection process out of the hands of the major parties. The Constitution says the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint” justices to the highest court, and that vague division of power leaves a lot of room for innovation. We might create a large, bipartisan Senate panel made up of top legal experts – law profs, retired judges – to screen potential nominees for the quality of their scholarship and past decisions, while weeding out mediocre or unoriginal thinkers and ideological hacks, and then have the president pick judges from the cream of the crop.

In any event, we should not view the anti-democratic arrangement we have now as natural or beneficial just because it’s been with us for hundreds of years. The election of

Trump has called into question all manner of issues that had been considered settled in the United States – from the virtues of capitalism to the benefits of international trade to the value of the unwritten norms that had long been honored on Capitol Hill.

Brett Kavanaugh’s demonstrably partisan background and the circus now surrounding his confirmation illustrate that it’s past time that we take a serious shot at ridding ourselves of this iteration of the Supreme Court and replacing it with a body that fulfills the purpose for which it was originally intended.

By Joshua Holland/RawStory

Posted by The NON-Conformist

We can’t blame Trump and the Republicans alone for the Supreme Court. Democrats had a big hand in it too.

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The Supreme Court has been around as long as the Constitution itself, more than two centuries now. Since the Warren court of the 1950s, Republicans have been open about their intention to pack it with judges who will repeal birth control, civil rights, labor rights, minimum wages, environmental regulation and most of the 20th century. Democrats, if they were ever a party of the people, as opposed to another party of the elite, have had sixty-some years to craft their own strategy to thwart Republicans. Democratic elected officials have never done this because of course they have more in common with their elite Republican counterparts than they do with the unwashed masses who vote Democratic, and who can always be rallied with the cynical cry that only Democrats can save them from an evil Republican Supreme Court.

Back in 2005 the second President Bush nominated John Roberts as chief justice. The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. The most celebrated, widely quoted, and closely watched Democrat on the judiciary committee was the acclaimed constitutional scholar and freshman from Illinois, Barack Obama. These were the guys on point for Democrats that season.

John Roberts had a long history of hostility to birth control, to voting rights, to organized labor, black and brown people, anti-discrimination laws and to anything else which might mitigate or restrain the rule of the rich in even the smallest degree. As a DC circuit court judge he “legalized” after the fact Bush’s illegitimate detention and torture at offshore black sites. As a private attorney he represented mining companies defending the horrifically destructive practice of mountaintop removal, and he was part of the Bush V. Gore legal team which succeeded in letting the Supreme Court overrule the ongoing tally of votes in Florida and declare Bush the winner. Roberts was also a board member of the rabidly right wing Federalist Society, which seeks to overturn virtually all civil rights and environmental law, and all regulation of so-called “free markets” whatsoever.

Republican leaning corporate media rejoiced, saying they were finally gonna get what they wanted. Environmental, voting rights and civil rights organizations sounded the alarm, but to little avail. Elected Democrats, their supposed champions, along with Democrat-leaning corporate media whined that there was insufficient evidence of Roberts’ rightward leanings to invest much effort in stopping his ascent to the court. Bush was a hugely unpopular president, and congressional Democrat candidates across the country were campaigning not on local issues, but against the president, a winning strategy for the following year as it turned out.

Ranking Democrat John Kerry and Barack Obama were urged to filibuster the Roberts nomination. They pretended to entertain the idea a while, but did not. Kerry and Obama failed to oppose the Roberts nomination in committee, where they could have imposed substantial roadblocks and opened an ongoing debate about the sinister role of the corporate funded Federalist Society. They voted against the nomination on the Senate floor, where it made no difference, and John Roberts got on the Supreme Court with no serious opposition.

The next summer, in 2006 when Bush nominated Sam Alito to the Supreme Court the exercise was repeated. Samuel Alito had an even more balls-out reputation as an opponent of civil and human rights. Republicans exulted while lawyerly Democrats and their media mouthpieces claimed there were no smoking guns to tell whether Alito was actually the kind of judge Republicans claimed he was. Kerry and Obama, both lawyers of course were urged again to vigorously oppose the nomination in committee, and above all to make Alito’s membership in the Federalist Society a major point in opposing him and the entire wave of Republican judges it vets and spawns for local benches and the federal judiciary.

The Federalist Society was founded during the first term of Ronald Reagan in 1982, and immediately attracted lavish funding from a galaxy of right wing foundations, deep corporate pockets and wealthy individuals including the Walton Family Foundation, the Koch Brothers, the Scaife, Coors and Heritage Foundations. It swiftly established chapters in law schools across the country and became the go-to portal for young Republican lawyers on the make. The Federalist society also has working groups of law school professors and groups where practicing attorneys and prominent jurists meet and associate with law students, and in which legal arguments for new corporate rights are developed, rehearsed and fine tuned. For about a generation now, practically no Republican attorney has snagged a spot on state or federal judicial or prosecutorial benches, or appointed to federal agencies without the stamp of the Federalist Society on his or her resume.

As the two Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary, Kerry and Obama were urged again and again by civil rights, environmental groups, by labor unions – by all the advocacy groups which supposedly represent the Democratic party’s base voters, to stall, to delay and to vigorously oppose the Alito nomination. By the summer of 2006 it was clear that Democrats would take back the house in November, and possibly the Senate as well. This time, Kerry and Obama said they were considering filibustering the nomination. But they didn’t, and even worse, they refused to question Sam Alito on his association with the Federalist Society, which might have made that organization’s stranglehold on Republican prosecutorial and judicial nominees an ongoing issue.

After perfunctory questioning, Kerry, Obama and their committee they passed Alito out to the full Senate where he was confirmed with no significant opposition. To this day, the corporate funded Federalist Society is still choosing a huge share of judges and prosecutors.

Let’s be clear… the courts in the US were never intended to be a small d democratic institution. The founding fathers were quite open about their intention to insulate judges from the will of the electorate, even when only white men with substantial property were allowed to vote. From the nation’s beginning, its courts have always been an elite institution, staffed by and answerable to elites, not to the people. And the US elite is thoroughly bipartisan. Vigorous Democratic opposition to Federalist Society nominees a dozen years ago by leading Democrats, most notably by then senators Barack Obama and John Kerry might have made kept dozens or hundreds of right wing judges off the bench and made it impossible for Trump to nominate his latest corporate mouthpiece. It didn’t happen because elite Democrats have far more in common with elite Republicans than they do with mere Democratic voters.

So the answer to Democrat excuse makers who sagely assure us that elections DO make a difference is yeah, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. But fighting, resisting injustice, exploitation and oppression always makes a difference. Too bad that’s simply NOT what Democratic elected officials actually DO.

By Bruce A. Dixon/BAR

Posted by The NON Conformist

Man behind Janus case says public unions will have to sell themselves better after Supreme Court ruling

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The Illinois state worker behind a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public workers cannot be forced to pay union dues said Thursday morning that the unions will be forced to do a better job selling themselves.

Man behind Janus case says public unions will have to sell themselves better after Supreme Court ruling

Image: (Carolyn Kaster, AP)

“A lot of these unions have asked for, and received, the ability to inclusively, collectively bargain for everybody,” Mark Janus said during an interview with Albany radio. “Now that this decision has come down, they’re going to have to come out and sell a product, if you will, and they will have to prove to the individuals that there is a definite benefit for being part of the union.”

Janus — who said the decision will save him about $50 a month — said it was more about the issue than the money. He called it “mainly a matter of choice.”

More from NY Daily News

Posted by Libergirl

Ohio’s Junk Mail Trick Led the Supreme Court to Approve Jim Crow Voter Purge

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The Help America Vote Act blew open a giant loophole in the National Voter Registration Act’s protections.”

The recent Supreme Court decision blessing Ohio’s removal of half a million voters was ultimately decided on the issue of a postcard.

Now that little postcard threatens the voting rights of millions—but it can be reversed.

The instant-news media, working from press releases, not the Supreme Court’s decision itself, said that Husted, Ohio Secretary of State v. A. Philip Randolph Institute was about whether Ohio has the right to remove voters who failed to cast ballots in two federal election cycles.

Nope.

Even the Court’s right-wing majority concedes that federal law strictly forbids removing voters because they skipped some elections. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 states that a voter purge program “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person … by reason of the person’s failure to vote.”

But here’s the trick: In 2002, the George W. Bush administration ginned up the Help America Vote Act. When a Bush tells you he’s going to “help” you vote, look out. Yet, naïve Democrats passed the act into law. The Help America Vote Act is filled with buried land mines that are still exploding.

Monday’s decision is one of those land mines. The Help America Vote Act, the Court concluded, blew open a giant loophole in the National Voter Registration Act’s protections. The trick is that Ohio does not remove voters simply because they missed a few elections. According to the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito:

“Ohio uses a registrant’s failure to vote [only] to identify that registrant as a person whose address has likely changed.”

The Court takes note that Ohio claims it had evidence that, in 2012, a whopping 1.5 million voters — an astronomical 20 percent of its total voter base — had moved their residence out of Ohio or moved from their county voting area. The 1.5 million voters were sent postcards asking them to confirm their mailing address.

“Federal law strictly forbids removing voters because they skipped some elections.”

It was a voter’s failure to return the postcard that cost them their right to vote. The Court majority said that the Help America Vote Act trumps the National Voter Registration Act, arguing that the act passed under George W. Bush “specifies that ‘nothing in [the National Voter Registration Act prohibition] may be construed to prohibit a State from using the procedures’ — [such as] sending a return card.”

The Justices ruled that a voter’s failure to return a postcard (which asks the voter to confirm their address) constitutes solid proof that the voter had left Ohio or moved to another voting district.

The plaintiffs, a coalition of voting rights groups, were gob-smacked. Plaintiffs argued that there are many reasons folks did not return the postcard, most likely that they threw it away as junk mail or never received it in the first place. But the Court majority found that, without specific evidence, the plaintiffs’ claim that voters just threw away the cards was speculative and “dubious.”

Jim Crow Is in the Cards

Writing for the four dissenters, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the effect of the Court’s decision was to disproportionately wipe out the rights of “minority, low-income, disabled, homeless, and veteran voters.” Sotomayor went on to cite an investigation revealing that Ohio’s purge operation had knocked out the registrations of 10 percent of African American-majority neighborhoods in downtown Cincinnati compared to only 4 percent of voters in a nearby suburban, majority-white neighborhood.

But that’s the point, Madame Justice.

But how? The Jim Crow result is in the cards.

I first discovered “purge-by-postcard” in 2014 while investigating mass attacks on voter rolls by GOP officials in a dozen states for Al Jazeera. I turned to direct mail experts, including Michael Wychocki, a Chicago-based adviser on mailing for Amazon and other companies that live or die by mail.

He directed me to the US Census Bureau’s massive study of mail return rates. Dig this:

* While 90 percent of those 65 years of age and older return the Census form, only 55.4 percent of those 18 to 24 reply.

* Homeowners are 32 percent more likely than renters to return forms.

* Only 65 percent of Latino voters mailed back an initial Census form, as did 70 percent of Black voters—versus over 80 percent of “non-Hispanic whites.”

And crucially, according to the Census study, 12 percent of mailings simply go astray—especially, says Wychocki, in poor, urban communities, where the tenants hop between apartments in the same neighborhood. And let’s not even discuss students and the homeless.

Designed to Be Thrown Away?

And that’s the Census Bureau, which designs mailings to get the highest response possible. Not so for the purge-by-postcard programs used by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

I showed Ohio voting rights attorney Robert Fitrakis a postcard on which one’s voting rights hang, and he gave, word for word, the same response I got from another direct mail expert, Mark Swedlund (whose clientele include eBay and AT&T): “Looks like junk mail, you’d throw it in the garbage.”

Indeed, Wychocki inspected the cards, which are filled with blocks of small print with no images. He explained that the design violates every cardinal rule of direct mail solicitation. While Wychocki would not speculate on the designer’s motives, he said it looked as if the postcard was by someone who did not want the voter to respond.

“Looks like junk mail, you’d throw it in the garbage.”

And one such someone is Kris Kobach. According to documents obtained by the ACLU, Kobach provided Husted (and other GOP voting officials) a sample postcard to send to voters targeted for purge.

Why? There are two groups of voters in the 500,000 that Ohio purged based on “evidence” the voter has moved. Hundreds of thousands were purged who landed on the suspect list because they missed elections. Second, there were those who supposedly have registered in another state. Names of those identified as moving to another state were taken from the infamous Interstate Crosscheck list given Husted by Kobach, according to documents from Kobach’s office.

For example, in 2015, leading up to the presidential election, Kobach, secretary of state in Kansas, gave Husted the Crosscheck list of 423,484 names of Ohio citizens who supposedly had registered in another state, according to Kansas records obtained by an investigative team I was working with at Rolling Stone magazine. Kobach and Husted had originally sold the Crosscheck program to the public as a method of finding criminal “double voters” – those actually voting in two states.

But Kobach himself told me in 2016—when I confronted him at a GOP fundraiser in Wichita while working for Rolling Stone—that the primary use of his Crosscheck lists is to identify voters who have moved and registered in another state. Kobach’s office directs the national program to remove voters who fail to respond to a postcard, taking advantage of the nifty Help America Vote Act-shaped hole in the National Voter Registration Act.

That Kris Kobach led the way with the purge-by-postcard scheme is not surprising, given his long history of scams to disenfranchise voters of color, closely reported on by Truthout.

History of Vote Suppression

Which brings us to Sotomayor’s outrage that the majority “entirely ignores the history of voter suppression against which the [National Voter Registration Act] was enacted and upholds a program that appears to further the very disenfranchisement of minority and low-income voters that Congress set out to eradicate.”

We don’t need to look at all of US history. Husted’s own long record of purging, blocking and not counting voters of color is a history lesson in disenfranchisement all by itself.

In 2012 and 2016, I filmed the single early voting station in Dayton, Ohio, where Black voters lined up for five hours to vote. I also filmed the lines in a white Toledo suburb. Well, actually, there were no lines: white voters had a gigantic field of machines to choose from—plus cookies and coffee served.

The long lines for Black voters resulted from Husted’s order closing all but one single early voting station in each county. That meant one polling station for the 13,000 residents and cows in Vinton County and one polling station for 1.3 million residents of Franklin County (Columbus).

Ohio attorney Robert Fitrakis says, bluntly, that Husted is purging voters of color to “make Ohio winnable [for Republicans] in the only way he knows how — by stealing American citizens’ votes. And he’s counting on bigotry to get away with it.”

What Can Be Done?

The implications of the Supreme Court decision are unimaginably horrid, as states come up with spurious “evidence” that a voter has moved — “proven” by a failure to respond to a piece of junk mail.

The purge could be massive: A half-million in Ohio will undoubtedly lead to millions nationwide.

Normally, a Supreme Court verdict is the final word, the last rodeo.

But there is hope. On Wednesday, I spoke by phone with renowned class-action attorney Jeanne Mirer of New York. She explained that the civil rights groups lost on a matter of law: States may assume a voter has moved residence if they don’t return a postcard.

But what if the facts say otherwise?

Just the Facts, Ma’am

It’s really simple to find out if failure to return a postcard is evidence you’ve moved: ask the voter. Call them up, knock on their door: Mr. Webster, have you moved to Virginia?

If Mr. Webster and others say, “No, here I am, I haven’t moved” … well, then, the Court’s factual assumption goes poof! Because the National Voter Registration Act says that removal methods must be “reasonable.”

So, the way to challenge the Court’s decision is to prove that purge-by-postcard is unreasonable and bogus.

To get to these purged voters, we need their names. But Husted has steadfastly refused to give up his list of the damned. He knows that the release of the names of those purged will blow his case to smithereens.

So, this reporter is filing a demand on Husted for the list of the purged. And I thank Mirer’s firm for taking on this enormous task, because in all, we are filing in 25 states where mass purges are conducted.(And her firm is working pro bono.)

Husted has so far stonewalled our polite requests for the information, but this new demand comes with a 90-day notice of a lawsuit.

“The purge-by-postcard is unreasonable and bogus.”

And in Kansas, where these methods, postcards and Crosscheck lists are conceived, I am joined in my demand on Kris Kobach for his purge lists by the Kansas ACLU.

Strategically, we’re beginning by demanding that segment of the purge list that Kobach gave to Ohio and other states.

Through investigation, we have already obtained small parts of these purge lists — including the one targeting Donald Alexander Webster Sr., a 70-year-old Black voter in Dayton, Ohio. He is listed as allegedly moving from Ohio to Virginia because there’s a Virginia voter registered as Donald Eugene Webster Jr.

Webster has not moved from Ohio. I met with him in his Dayton home. And he swears he’s never been a “Eugene” or a “Junior.” He insists, “I vote every election and every primary, every one.”

Channeling Justice Sotomayor, he told me, “I remember the Civil Rights Act, I remember all of those things. Almost all gone.” He added, with a deep sadness in his voice, “Somebody dropped the ball. Maybe it was us, our age group, that we thought we didn’t have to fight anymore.”

Well, Mr. Webster, the fight is beginning. Again.

By Greg Palast/BAR/Copyright, Truthout.

Posted By The NON-Conformist

Supreme Court sends NC partisan gerrymander case back for more arguments

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The U.S. Supreme Court sent the North Carolina case challenging the 13 congressional districts as partisan gerrymanders back on June 25, 2018, to the lower court for further hearings. Jessica Gresko AP Photo

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t immediately take up arguments about whether North Carolina Republican lawmakers went too far in 2016 when they redrew the state’s 13 congressional election districts to intentionally give their party a 10 to 3 advantage.

In an order released Monday, the high court sent the case back for further hearing in light of its decision in a Wisconsin case last week.

That means the challengers will have to persuade the three-judge panel that struck down the congressional districts as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders that a voter in each district suffered harm.

The North Carolina case has some similarities to the Wisconsin case and a Maryland partisan gerrymander case that also was sent back to a lower court last week for further proceedings.

But North Carolina’s case has one prominent difference.

State Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican, announced the party’s intention for drawing the election districts that would be used for voters to elect their congressional delegation.

“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with eleven Republicans and two Democrats,” Lewis said at the time.

The redrawing occurred because the federal courts found that the redistricting plan drawn by Republicans in 2011 contained unconstitutional racial gerrymanders that weakened the influence of black voters.

Challengers hope to get the case back before the Supreme Court in time to affect the districts used in the 2020 election, said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

“While it’s unfortunate that the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear this case right away, we are optimistic that the lower court will recognize, like they did in January, that North Carolina’s partisan gerrymandering is so egregious that it is unconstitutional and that our clients are the appropriate parties to be raising such claims,” Riggs said in a news release.

North Carolina has been described as one of the most gerrymandered states, and over the past seven years voters have chosen elected officials for the General Assembly and U.S. Congress from election districts that were later struck down by the courts as either racial or partisan gerrymanders.

North Carolina’s contorted history of congressional redistricting

Federal judges recently ruled that Republicans unconstitutionally gerrymandered two North Carolina congressional districts by race. But redrawing districts to benefit the political party in power is nothing new and has been going on for years.

Nicole L. Cvetnic and Patrick Gleason McClatchy

In an era in which mapmaking tools make it possible to draw election districts that pick up one house in a neighborhood while leaving another out, critics say the party in power is choosing voters for the candidates instead of the way the constitution intended.

There have been calls in North Carolina for the creation of a redistricting process to be done outside the political realm, but no legislation requiring that has been approved.

Concerned voters have looked to the U.S. Supreme Court for guidance.

Many consider Justice Anthony Kennedy to be the swing vote.

In a 2004 case from Pennsylvania, Kennedy was looking for a “limited and precise rationale … to correct an established violation of the Constitution in some redistricting cases.”

Though he did not find one in that case, he signaled his openness to striking down extreme partisan gerrymanders if the court could agree on a standard to do so.

In the Wisconsin partisan gerrymander case, in which the challengers asked the court to consider the state as a whole, the Supreme Court sent the case back saying the challenges must be brought district by district, with voters in each proving that their rights had been violated.

The Maryland case was sent back in an unsigned opinion that said the lower court hadn’t been wrong when it decided not to make the state redraw the maps in time for the 2018 election.

In response to the rulings in those cases, attorneys for North Carolina lawmakers filed a brief last week with the Supreme Court saying the case over the state’s congressional districts should be sent back to the lower court to further address questions raised in the Wisconsin case.

But attorneys for the challengers argued that no further hearings were necessary, that voters in each of the 13 congressional districts could and had shown harm.

By Anne Blythe/NewsandObserver
Posted by The NON-Conformist

Justices side with Colorado baker on same-sex wedding cake

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The Supreme Court ruled Monday for a Colorado baker who wouldn’t make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in a limited decision that leaves for another day the larger issue of whether a business can invoke religious objections to refuse service to gay and lesbian people.

The justices’ decision turned on what the court described as anti-religious bias on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when it ruled against baker Jack Phillips. The justices voted 7-2 that the commission violated Phillips’ rights under the First Amendment.

Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion that the larger issue “must await further elaboration” in the courts. Appeals in similar cases are pending, including one at the Supreme Court from a florist who didn’t want to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

More from WRAL.com

Posted by Libergirl

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