Online Feature

The Surprise Return and Transformation of Racial Gerrymandering

Michael C. Li

Racial gerrymandering is a doctrine that has had a surprising evolution. It began in controversy in the 1990s with legal challenges brought by white voters to the creation of majority-minority districts. By injecting a deeply skeptical, color-blind requirement into the redistricting process, the Supreme Court’s racial gerrymandering jurisprudence looked for much of the 1990s like a serious, and perhaps even fatal, threat to the ability to draw majority-minority districts under the Voting Rights Act. But those fears ultimately were misplaced.

This Article argues instead that the doctrine, while suffering from some jurisprudential and analytical complexities, has proven nonetheless to be a remarkably flexible tool for courts to address the intersection of race and politics. This decade, racial gerrymandering has evolved to be both a potent tool to block the packing of African American voters and a means to police at least some forms of partisan gerrymandering.