After Supreme Court Ruling on Voter Gerrymandering, HBCUs Could Shift Balance of Power in North Carolina

The US Supreme Court today rejected two voting districts redesigned by North Carolina lawmakers for political gerrymandering, saying that the realignment was done to disadvantage African American voters in the state.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/us/politics/supreme-court-north-carolina-congressional-districts.html?_r=0

Congressional Districts 1 and 12 were deemed to be unconstitutional, and the areas which now contain two HBCUs – North Carolina Central University and Johnson C. Smith University, will remain redrawn to address racial inequities.

Political gerrymandering has been an area of national concern in the state since 2010, when state lawmakers redrew boundaries following the national Census. Black college students were prominent activists in protesting redistricting, which attracted prominent attention at North Carolina A&T State University’s campus, which was split among two districts after realignment.

District 12 formerly contained North Carolina A&T, Bennett College, and Winston-Salem State University. Opponents of race-based redistricting claimed that lawmakers forced black voters and their overwhelming support of democratic candidates into concentrated areas to ensure more seats for conservative candidates in other regions.

Student voter registration and turnout generated by HBCUs could now impact representation in several districts throughout the state. With its five public and several private historically black campuses extended throughout the state, North Carolina could once again become a powerful national example of HBCU advocacy in state governance.

North Carolina has drawn national scorn for its legislative record on voter identification mandates, discrimination efforts against transgender citizens, education spending cuts and attempts to marginalize HBCUs through Senate Bill 873. Redistricting makes it easier for students to vote, to reach more potential voters with student outreach, and to change the way political candidates address and act upon constituent needs.

No substantive change for black communities in the United States has come without judicial or legislative interference. Today was a landmark day in that proud history for HBCU communities in North Carolina, and here’s hoping that HBCU students and alumni are ready to take full advantage of the win for years to come.

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