This morning, I wrote about two issues that would have to be resolved before the 2010 census could proceed. Already one has been resolved, as the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a decision on what kinds of minority districts must be preserved.

The decision on Bartlett v. Strickland, a North Carolina political representation case, has given virtual final determination to the drawing of majority-minority congressional and state legislative districts. Democrats wanted a freer hand in determining the number of minorities it takes to protect either an African American or Hispanic district, while Republicans argued that utilizing absolute numbers should continue.

On a 5-4 vote (Kennedy, writing for Roberts and Alito, with Thomas and Scalia in agreement), the Court stated that in fact majority-minority districts must be constituted of absolute majorities.

This means that map drawers must continue to protect minority districts with greater numbers of minority voters. The ruling makes it more difficult to spread blocks of Democrat-loyal racial minorities to a maximum number of seats for the purposes of creating combination minority districts, which tend to elect white Democrats.


Jim Ellis provides election analysis to private clients through the PRIsm Information Network. He formerly advised political leaders in the House Republican Majority and national party apparatus and has participated in corporate grassroots issue advocacy, political consulting and coalition programs since 1983.