News

The Supreme Court rules against North Carolina gerrymandering… again

The Supreme Court earlier struck down gerrymandering in US Congressional Districts 1 & 12 (USGS)

The Supreme Court today ruled that North Carolina had violated the 14th Amendment when it used race to redraw several state legislature districts.  In North Carolina v. Sandra Little Covington, the Court upheld a Federal District Court ruling that the Republican-controlled state legislature had redrawn 28 state house and state senate districts based largely on race, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Two weeks ago, in Cooper v. Harris, the Court overturned two U.S. Congressional districts in North Carolina for the same reason.  And a week earlier, the Court let stand a Federal Court ruling that a North Carolina voter law had adversely targeted African Americans with “almost surgical precision.”

Learn more about the history of racially-based gerrymandering in our film One Person, One Vote

 

“Freedom of the Press” wins a Platinum Hermes Creative Award

Freedom of the Press: New York Times v. United States has won a Platinum award in the Educational category at the Hermes Creative Awards.  The film tells the story of the ongoing fight for a free press in the United States, one that acts as a check on government, from the drafting of the First Amendment to one of the greatest challenges to press freedom, the fight over the publication of the The Pentagon Papers.

Click here to watch the film online.

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The danger of being Japanese-American in 1942

The Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah, where Fred Korematsu was sent after his arrest (National Archives)

On this day in 1942, a man named Fred Korematsu was walking with his girlfriend down a street in San Leandro, California, when he was stopped by police.  He was arrested for something that, at the time, was illegal: being of Japanese descent on the West Coast of the United States.  Just a few months earlier, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had issued Executive Order 9066, which ordered  that all people of Japanese ancestry — even native-born American citizens — on the West Coast of the United States were to be rounded up and put in concentration camps.  120,000 people were removed from their homes and placed in “relocations centers” scattered around the western and central United States.  But Fred Korematsu didn’t report for “relocation.”  And his arrest would spark one of the most infamous Supreme Court decisions in our nation’s history.  Learn more in our film, Korematsu and Civil Liberties.

 

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The drafting of our Constitution

“Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” by Howard Chandler Christy (Architect of the Capitol)

230 years ago today, many of the nation’s leading minds met in a sweltering room in the middle of a Philadelphia heat wave to revise a document called The Articles of Confederation.  The Articles had been a big problem.  They left too much power to the states.  Congress, the only branch of the federal government in the Articles, had almost no power over the states.  And as the country fought for independence from Great Britain, that had been disastrous, as the Continental Army struggled to supply itself through a government with no ability to raise funds.

To many delegates — including George Washington, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton — revising the Articles didn’t go far enough.  They needed to be scrapped entirely so that something better could take its place, something that created a strong, central government — one with clear, enumerated (but still limited) powers over the states.  So that’s just what they did.  Working in secret over the next three months, the Founders of our country labored over the four pages of parchment that would create the United States Federal Government and underly all of American law from that point forward, the Constitution of the United States.

Learn more about the drafting of this revolutionary document in our film Creating a Constitution.

 

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Supreme Court rules against North Carolina’s race-based gerrymandering

The Supreme Court struck down gerrymandering in districts 1 & 12 (USGS)

The Supreme Court ruled today in Cooper v. Harris that North Carolina violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment when it redrew two congressional districts based largely on race.  In a 5-3 decision (Justice Neil Gorsuch was not on the Court when the case was argued), the Court ruled that the Republican-controlled state legislature had weighed race too heavily in redrawing district lines.  North Carolina had argued that the new lines were drawn for partisan advantage, or meant to favor Republicans (which the Court has ruled is allowed), and not based on race.  In the majority opinion, Justice Elena Kagan disagreed, writing, “the sorting of voters on the grounds of their race remains suspect even if race is meant to function as a proxy for other (including political) characteristics.”

Learn more about the history of racially-based gerrymandering in our film One Person, One Vote

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