• Share
  • Read Later
On the final day of the 1995 term, the Supreme Court handed down a major ruling that could shape the racial makeup of Congress for years to come. On a 5-4 vote, a sharply divided Court said thatrace cannot be the predominant factor in drawing up election districts. The decision could make it much more difficult for blacks in southern states to be elected to Congress, saysTIME legal correspondent Adam Cohen. "In Alabama and Louisiana, two states with large black minorities, you could once again see an all-white congressional delegation. In the civil rights movement," says Cohen, "the pendulum has always swung only one way, toward greater minority voting rights. Now, with this decision, the pendulum is sharply swinging back." Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that race could not be a determining factor in deciding how to draw the boundaries of a district unless states could show a compelling reason to do so. But the ruling will not end gerrymandering along ethnic lines, argues Cohen. "In New York, for years, we've had an Irish district, and an Italian district. It seems that ethnicity is only a problem when it's a black or Latino district."