Term Year 2016

Cooper v. Harris

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevents a State, in the absence of “sufficient justification,” from “separating its citizens into different voting districts on the basis of race.” BethuneHill v. Virginia State Bd. of Elections, 580 U. S. , . When a voter sues state officials for drawing such race-based lines, this Court’s decisions call for a two-step analysis. First, the plaintiff must prove that “race was the predominant factor motivating the legislature’s decision to place a significant number of voters within or without a particular district.” Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S. 900, 916. Second, if racial considerations did predominate, the State must prove that its race-based sorting of voters serves a “compelling interest” and is “narrowly tailored” to that end, Bethune-Hill, 580 U. S., at . This Court has long assumed that one compelling interest is compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA or Act). When a State invokes the VRA to justify race-based districting, it must show (to meet the “narrow tailoring” requirement) that it had “good reasons” for concluding that the statute required its action. Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, 575 U. S. , _. A district court’s factual findings made in the course of this two-step inquiry are reviewed only for clear error. See Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 52(a)(6); Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U. S. 234, 242 (Cromartie II). This case concerns North Carolina’s redrawing of two congressional districts, District 1 and District 12, after the 2010 census. Prior to that redistricting, neither district had a majority black voting-age population (BVAP), but both consistently elected the candidates preferred by most African-American voters