Racial gerrymandering in more than one state was one of the main issues that the Supreme Court was set to rule on this term, and they've delivered a decision in the case regarding Texas that mostly sided with the districts. Sonia Sotomayor's dissent on the Texas racial gerrymandering case, though, makes it clear that this was a heated issue in the court.
According to Oyez, a multimedia law resource, Abbott v. Perez concerned voting districts adopted in 2011 for the state legislature. Challengers to the new districts claimed that they were racially biased and discriminatory in a way that wasn't lawful or constitutional, whereas the state of Texas claimed that they followed all existing rules.
According to the Supreme Court's official decision, the court was split down ideological lines about the verdict, with conservative justice Samuel Alito delivering the majority opinion joined by fellow conservative justices John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and centrist justice Anthony Kennedy. Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, joined by her three fellow liberal justices, and even the opening sentence of her dissent makes it clear that she was not willing to hold back.
"The Court today goes out of its way to permit the State of Texas to use maps that the three-judge District Court unanimously found were adopted for the purpose of preserving the racial discrimination that tainted its previous maps," the beginning of Sotomayor's dissent read.
The lower court had ruled the new districts unconstitutional, so the majority opinion reversed that decision. "When the congressional and state legislative districts are reviewed under the proper legal standards, all but one of them, we conclude, are lawful," Alito wrote in his decision.
Sotomayor, on the other hand, claimed that the majority's process had "[committed] three fundamental errors" en route to making the decision, and that the racial discrimination would remain in the districts as a result of it. In her view, those errors amounted to a "disregard of both precedent and fact," which "comes at serious costs to our democracy."
The next part of her dissent, then, directly brings up the people whom she believes will be affected by the majority's decision: "It means that, after years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas — despite constituting a majority of the population within the State — will continue to be underrepresented in the political process."
She continued, making her statement even more directly about how the decision influences minority voters' lives:
Those voters must return to the polls in 2018 and 2020 with the knowledge that their ability to exercise meaningfully their right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will. The fundamental right to vote is too precious to be disregarded in this manner. I dissent.
According to Biography.com, June 25 is Sotomayor's birthday, in addition to being the day that this decision was released. Her fiery dissent makes it clear, though, that she did not take the day off just because she was turning 64.
"The Court today does great damage to that right of equal opportunity. Not because it denies the existence of that right, but because it refuses its enforcement," Sotomayor wrote in conclusion, continuing:
The Court intervenes when no intervention is authorized and blinds itself to the overwhelming factual record below. It does all of this to allow Texas to use electoral maps that, in design and effect, burden the rights of minority voters to exercise that most precious right that is "preservative of all rights."
She finished her dissent by repeating a phrase from her opening and making the immense weight of the case, in her mind, clear to all readers of the dissent.
"Because our duty is to safeguard that fundamental right," Sotomayor wrote, "I dissent."