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Partisan Gerrymandering Wins At Supreme Court

It was 5-4 along partisan lines, of course. This means we take the fight to the state level.

It was 5-4 along partisan lines, and a big loss for democracy today at the Supreme Court.

At least two members of this court wouldn't be there without gerrymandering.

— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) June 27, 2019

In two partisan gerrymandering cases, the conservative majority decided (via @SCOTUSblog) "that partisan-gerrymandering challenges to electoral maps are political questions that are not reviewable in federal court, dismissing challenges by Democratic voters to North Carolina congressional map drawn by Republican officials and by Republican voters to one district drawn by Democrats in Maryland."

Justice Kagan wrote the spirited dissent: link)

For the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.

And not just any constitutional violation. The partisan gerrymanders in these cases deprived citizens of the most fundamental of their constitutional rights: the rights to participate equally in the political process, to join with others to advance political beliefs, and to choose their political representatives. In so doing, the partisan gerrymanders here debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people. These gerrymanders enabled politicians to entrench themselves in office as against voters’ preferences. They promoted partisanship above respect for the popular will. They encouraged a politics of polarization and dysfunction. If left unchecked, gerrymanders like the ones here may irreparably damage our system of government.

And checking them is not beyond the courts. The majority’s abdication comes just when courts across the country, including those below, have coalesced around manageable judicial standards to resolve partisan gerrymandering claims. Those standards satisfy the majority’s own benchmarks. They do not require—indeed, they do not permit—courts to rely on their own ideas of electoral fairness, whether proportional representation or any other. And they limit courts to correcting only egregious gerrymanders, so judges do not become omnipresent players in the political process. But yes, the standards used here do allow—as well they should—judicial intervention in the worst-of-the-worst cases of democratic subversion, causing blatant constitutional harms. In other words, they allow courts to undo partisan gerrymanders of the kind we face today from North Carolina and Maryland. In giving such gerrymanders a pass from judicial review, the majority goes tragically wrong.

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The fight is far from over. It's time for all of us to join Common Cause, sign the end gerrymandering pledge, and work in our own states for a referendum against gerrymandering and for fairly-drawn districts.

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