Ruling assures cloak and dagger tactics to redraw district lines will increase leading up to 2020.
First coined in 1812 to describe a bill by Mass. Gov. Elbridge Gerry, after that, it created a partisan district that ignored geographic sensibilities simply to give advantage to a particular party.
This practice has long been considered a partisan ploy and has been used to break up the electoral power of disenfranchised groups. As of the late the group, most affected by this have been African-Americans.
So, it came as no surprise to me when the Supreme Court announced in a 5-4 decision that they have no authority to correct partisan gerrymandering, which artificially entrenches incumbents and their lackeys in power by changing their districts into ones where the demographics are more favorable for electing a particular party, unless the state or congressional legislators step in.
Earlier this year, a federal court ruled a redistricting map drawn by Republicans in Raleigh to be egregiously partisan. The new map literally cuts the campus of North Carolina A&T in half. With over 12,000 students, that is a significant cut in voting numbers.
The Supreme Court ruling overruled and rejected two constitutional challenges on partisan district mapmaking, one brought by North Carolina Democrats and the other by Republicans in Maryland.
“Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust. But the fact that such gerrymandering is ‘incompatible with democratic principles,’ does not mean that the solution lies with the federal judiciary,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote for himself, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. “Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.”
The court’s liberal minority issued the following statement in dissent.
“Of all times to abandon the court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one,” Justice Elena Kagan said in summarizing her dissent from the bench. Partisan gerrymanders “imperil our system of government. Part of the court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations,” she said, none “more important than free and fair elections.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor agreed.
This may not kill the practice of gerrymandering indefinitely, but it damn sure puts the issue in a deep cryogenic freeze until the composition of the Supreme Court changes.
The Supreme Court justices are appointed for life. Even with their advanced ages, that’s still a very long time for injustice to reign unchecked.
The argument made by the conservatives on the bench is that the Supreme Court dare not venture into politics, which is funny considering the politics of the conservative justices in question is what got them on the bench in the first place.
This issue is huge as the 2020 census looms in the distance, and will require maps across the country to be redrawn to reflect the new demographic realities of these new districts.
The national consensus is that both federal and state courts that partisan gerrymandering violates voters’ constitutional rights and can be solved by litigation.