Supreme Court To Hear Potential Landmark Case On Whether Partisan Gerrymandering Is Constitutional

The Washington Post reports:

The Supreme Court declared Monday that it will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, a potentially fundamental change in the way American elections are conducted.

The justices regularly are called to invalidate state electoral maps that have been illegally drawn to reduce the influence of racial minorities by depressing the impact of their votes.

But the Supreme Court has never found a plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering. If it does, it would have a revolutionary impact on the reapportionment that comes after the 2020 election and could come at the expense of Republicans, who control the process in the majority of states.

The court accepted a case from Wisconsin, where a divided panel of three federal judges last year ruled last year that the state’s Republican leadership in 2011 pushed through a plan so partisan that it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment and equal rights protections.

  • Treant

    “Yes. Jesus said so.” –Gorsuch.

    • kaydenpat

      To Gorsuch personally.

      • BobSF_94117

        An angel took the form of a human to whisper it in his ear. Robert Mercer, probably. Or maybe the daughter…

  • crewman

    I don’t understand how it’s legal at all, whether it’s race-based or not. The intent is always to disenfranchise certain voters in favor of others. It’s a power grab and attempts to permanently diminish the power of some segment of society. It’s antithetical to democracy.

    • Let’s hope someone makes that argument.

    • another_steve

      Exactly. It’s one of those head-scratchers. How could it possibly pass constitutional muster?

      Here’s another one for ya: How can it possibly be constitutional for a municipality to allow men to go topless in public, but not women?

      • vorpal 😼

        In Canada, at least, women are allowed to go topless in public.

        Why people are so terrified of them or their children seeing the human body is incomprehensible.

        • FAEN

          As Americans we will ever get rid of this ridiculous Puritanism?

          • canoebum

            That’s exactly what the English were saying in 1600.

          • fuow

            Not as long as conservatives always vote and liberals only vote when the candidate is 100% perfect.

        • Tomcat

          After having seen the spandex suits on old men at the beach in Florida I can understand why it is best for everyone to remain dressed at all times.

          • vorpal 😼

            There is an inverse relationship between the chance that one will wear a speedo and that one should wear a speedo, unfortunately.

      • Frostbite

        Because boobies!

    • So does the electoral college.

    • Dejerrity

      “It’s antithetical to democracy.”

      This is true. But when has that ever stopped a Republican of doing something?

    • juanjo54

      Agreed and it has been an issue in all states regardless of which party is in power and engaging in the process. Right now it is the Republicans doing it because demographic shifts in a number of states are not in their favor. But democrats have engaged in this as well.

      An amusing bit of historical trivia is that when California put a proposal on the ballot to have a non-partisan panel oversea redistricting, it was fought tooth and nail by the Democrats who controlled the legislature. The Republicans were emphatically in support of the idea. However once implemented the Republicans became and remain a minority party in California, strong in some less populous large counties in the Central Valley and the far Northeastern and Southeastern portions of the state, mainly agricultural areas. The rest of the state is overwhelmingly Democrats.

  • Butch

    Apparently, and I’m sorry I can’t provide a better explanation, the people bringing the case have found a way to “quantify” the result, and that would allay a previous concern expressed by Kennedy.

  • KCMC
  • another_steve

    My home state, Maryland, is one of the most gerrymandered states in the union. In our case, however, Democrats are the beneficiaries.

    Check out this map of Maryland’s 4th congressional district.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8b2c6130e85213ff83d3bc5d49d81c36078be56e34ad90caa7e016fa85077555.png

    • Ninja0980

      Still wrong no matter who does it.

    • Gustav2

      Ohio is much the same way.

      • Ninja0980

        NY is also gerrymandered which is why our state senate (with help from DINOS) keeps staying in Republican hands.

      • Vista-Cruiser

        No, Ohio ‘ districts were drawn to benefit Republicans.

        • Gustav2

          And the few elected Democrats are in VERY safe districts.

    • M Jackson

      Looks messed up to me.

      • another_steve

        Wait wait… I got an even better one for ya.

        Maryland’s 3rd congressional district.

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/10884b2e352ab04b063e4bcca835d0ddbca36a5e33c5af4df965299a14c8ab3f.png

        • M Jackson

          That is insane!
          Is this a Dem leaning district?Assume I’m not smart and tell me if this could be a case of franchising under-represented democrats for good reason, or is it corrupt politics as usual?

          • ChrisMorley

            The seat is currently represented by John Sarbanes, a Democrat.

            99.9% corrupt politics.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maryland%27s_3rd_congressional_district

          • Ninja0980

            Corrupt politics all the way.
            I’m no fan of Roscoe Bartlett but the fact he lost his seat in Congress this way should embarrass all of us.

          • another_steve

            Maryland is divided into eight congressional districts. Currently, seven of those are represented by a Democrat in the House of Representatives and one by a Republican. (Both of Maryland’s U.S. senators are Democrats.)

            Gerrymandering has benefited the Democrats here.

          • M Jackson

            That’s disheartening. I know about Texas where the republicans are doing it, and New York where the Dems don’t need to do it.

    • Adam Schmidt

      As I recall, isn’t that district drawn that way because the northern and southern sections are predominately black while the section in the middle is predominately Hispanic and thus it increases the chance that both will be fairly represented?

      • another_steve

        Could be.

        Whether the “goal” of the gerrymandering is admirable or not, or whether Democrats are hurt/helped or Republicans are hurt/helped, I think there’s a bona fide issue of whether the custom carving-out of districts by the state party in charge (be it a Democratically controlled State or a Republican one) is constitutional.

        I’m glad the Supreme Court will be examining the issue.

  • Gustav2

    If this isn’t found unconstitutional, Ohio will lose more and more people with degrees. The Republican legislature is trying to make us Kansas.

  • bkmn

    Expect Gorsuch to try to swing as many votes as he can to keep the system the way it is.

  • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

    Gorsuch: “while I’ve spent considerable time trying to help the [Republican] cause on a volunteer basis in various roles, I have concluded that I’d like to be a full-time member of the team.”

    Will Gorsuch help the cause in the biggest way he ever could as a full-time member of the “team” now?

  • Ninja0980

    Such a shame it has to come down to Kennedy, who is NOT at all reliable in cases like this (Bush V Gore and the VRA ring a bell?)
    But both sides are the same right so they surely would have appointed the same judges.

    • True, Kennedy is a lot more conservative than many think. That said, he has signaled in the past that he feels partisan gerrymandering isn’t legal, but is hard to prove except for the most egregiously-drawn districts. The case they’re taking tests a mathematical formula for excessive partisanship.

  • Boreal

    Here’s where we get to see the result of those who voted based upon purity last November.

  • Uncle Mark

    It would be so nice to see the Supreme Court rule against Wisconsin gerrymandering. It couldn’t happen to a more worthy state north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

    • Vista-Cruiser

      The SCOTUS didn’t have to take this case, but they did. It’s a pretty accurate sign that the Court will enshrine gerrymandering as forever constitutional.

  • Skokieguy [Larry]

    We simply need to have national standards for our elections. To have different requirements to be eligible to vote, different amounts of efforts required (2o minutes or 6 hours in line, three days or three weeks of early voting), etc. does not provide any measure of equality or that each vote carries the same weight.

    • lymis

      And of all the things people try to add to the constitution, voting rights and Constitutional limitations on doing anything to affect them should be one of them.

  • Dejerrity

    The Republicans can see the trends inexorably shifting against them, and they know this is their last best hope of staying in control. They know that with no gerrymandering they have no way to win ahead of them.

    This is our biggest fight yet. Watch for the Republican Justices to write bombastic opinions on how the Founding Fathers WANTED gerrymandering.

    Help us Ruth Bader Ginsberg…you’re are only hope.

    • TJay229

      I agree

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    • Craig Howell

      The word “gerrymandering” is derived from Elbridge Gerry, who could indeed be considered one of the Founders as he signed the Declaration of Independence and served later as VP under James Madison. As Governor of Massachusetts, he came up with a Congressional redistricting map so bizarrely shaped that one of the districts was labeled the Gerrymander because it looked like a salamander. So, yes, at least some of the Founders were perfectly happy with gerrymandering for blatantly partisan purposes.

  • netxtown

    gerry mandering. electoral college.
    all of it is designed and/or used to disenfranchise particular segments of voters.

    EVERY vote cast should count for the candidate -NOT the party.

  • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

    Here is an interesting article about gerrymandering and a computer algorithm for drawing “optimally compact” equal-population congressional districts in each state.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/06/03/this-computer-programmer-solved-gerrymandering-in-his-spare-time/?utm_term=.501fb34ad2b7

  • Nax

    To this Supreme Court, it would only be unconstitutional if the gerrymandering favored Democrats.

  • andrew

    How can partisan gerrymandering be considered constitutional? It’s sole purpose is an attempt to guarantee certain election results.

    • Keiffer

      SCOTUS has generally deferred to this as a political question rather than a matter of law and as such has deemed them as issues without Article III standing. The most recent case was that political gerrymandering (as opposed that based on race or other protected class) could be justiciable if there was a method for evaluation but that since one didn’t exist they ruled against the challenge to the plan.

      In this case they are going for First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment challenges with a mathematical formula (that is an objective rather than subjective assessment). Any new methodology is fraught with suspicion but since it was Kennedy that said, “well, maybe if…” perhaps this lies within the boundaries of what he was saying would be sufficient for judicial review.

  • worstcultever

    Good analysis by Ian Millhiser

    “The Most Exciting Attack On Partisan Gerrymandering In Over A Decade”

    https://thinkprogress.org/the-most-exciting-attack-on-partisan-gerrymandering-in-over-a-decade-68ae8b6b2e5e

  • FAEN

    A fair playing field is never in the GOP’s interest.

    • Tomcat

      Same things about facts.

  • Hank

    Sure, the Supreme Court, the decided that the VRA, had run its course and overturned it, only to IMMEDIATELY have the states covered by it, come up with OTHER forms of Voting DISCRIMINATION!!!

  • Scout
  • Ben in Oakland

    If the Supreme Court does not step in an order change immediately, then it will prove what I have long considered true. It’s a creature of the most conservative elements of our country, and not interested in good government.

    Sadly, I expect a 5-4 or6-3 decision in favor of Gerrymandering, and the long slow decline of our republic to continue,

    • canoebum

      The court will say, if you don’t like how the districts are drawn, change your state government. Of course, this will ignore completely the same problem at the state level as well.

      • Ben in Oakland

        The problem is at the state level. They are the ones that draw the lines.

  • CharlestonDave

    Can one be hopeful and pessimistic at the same time?

    • David L. Caster

      Yes. Happens all the time.

  • FormerMainer

    Let’s hope the Court strikes these districts, but even if it does, I’m less certain that the ruling will have much impact in practice. Both sides will continue to see there being much to gain by pushing the limits of whatever SCOTUS rules.

  • coram nobis

    The SCOTUSBLOG page for Gill v. Whitford is here and no doubt will update with amicus briefs and other filings in the coming months. Worth bookmarking.

    http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/gill-v-whitford/

    Scheduling looks like there will be conference before the Court adjourns at month’s end but possibly will get heard and ruled on during the fall session.

    This is it, folks. We’re playing for all the marbles on this one.

  • David

    We all know how Clarence Thomas is going to vote.
    He LOVES Jim Crow Laws.

  • David

    Roberts is a hardcore Segregationist. This is not going to go well.

  • WiscoJoe

    If Hillary had been elected and appointed a Supreme Court Justice I might actually have some hope that this ruling would put a stop to the out of control partisan gerrymandering that is subverting democracy here in Wisconsin. I had conversations with several hardcore Bernie/Green fanatics in 2016 about the importance of Supreme Court nominations to deal with some fundamental structural problems in our state government (redistricting and campaign finance reform). They were all so committed to their sense of ideological purity and conspiracy theories, that they literally told me the Supreme Court wasn’t important or that Hillary would appoint worse Supreme Court justices than Trump (????). I have a feeling those same people will be the ones now whining the loudest about how the Democrats or the DNC won’t swoop in and magically save them from Republican control. Oh well, maybe if they all bring their drum circles and “socialist” puppet shows to Madison to have some more protests at the capital, Scott Walker will suddenly decide to play fair without any intervention from the judicial system or federal government…

    For those of you on the “alt-left” in deep blue states, I encourage you to consider this viewpoint and take the old adage, “act locally, think globally” to heart. Your “radical revolution” may play well in your liberal enclaves where it doesn’t really lead to any negative consequences for yourself, but please consider how it trickles down and affects state/local governments like mine here in Wisconsin. Not only do liberal activists like myself have to fight against incredibly well-funded, well-organized far-right networks, we also increasingly have to fight back against the pervasive influence of the privileged, myopic far-left, which convinces enough young liberals that not voting is somehow an effective tactic, that structural things like Supreme Court nominations don’t matter, and that it’s better to “burn the system down” and stage dramatic protests than to actually put in the hard work of organizing a functioning coalition.

    Again, act locally, but think globally. For democracy’s sake, think about how your self-styled “radicalism” spreads past your own ego to affect the lives of people throughout the country.

    • fuow

      Well put. At least the lectures around here from the BernieBros have quieted down.

      • WiscoJoe

        It’s frustrating to see how this has played out at the local level here in Wisconsin. If people continue to push the “Democrats are just as bad! Politics are corrupt!” message during national elections, it spreads to local/state elections and midterms. It makes it even more difficult to get young people engaged, even in smaller, local elections where they could actually have tremendous influence and make a direct, positive impact on their own daily lives. Throw in things like gerrymandering, voting ID requirements, and campaign funded, at it leads to a situation where liberal causes have to fight twice as hard just to break even.

        Imagine facing tremendous hurdles that seem to grow with each Republican victory, and then having potential allies sitting on the sidelines throwing banana peels instead of actually helping to advance the cause. This is how the far-right wins even though their agenda is not popular.

  • fuow

    Well, thank goodness is doesn’t matter whether Garland or Gorsuch sits on the Supreme Court. They’re all the same, anyway – right all you liberals who didn’t vote in November?

  • AmeriCanadian

    Once again, the deciding vote will fall onto Kennedy. Anyone have an inkling of how he feels on the topic? Is the rumor of his impending retirement still circulating?

  • Jean-Marc in Canada

    I shall offer only this comment, for it is in my opinion, the only salient point that need be remembered where SCOTUS is concerned.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/25c4bd5d0c52685441bbc13ae16031d9b86dd6d2f37d396fb188a90fdef69e7c.jpg

  • JCF

    My expectations couldn’t be lower: they only took this case in order to overturn the lower court’s decision.

  • -M-

    Dear SCOTUS,

    No taxation without representation.
    Government of by and for the people.
    The right of the people to petition their government for redress.
    The whole point of elections is that political office holders are supposed to be chosen by the voters not vice versa, and the voters are supposed to be able to hold the politicians accountable for how well they represent their interests.

  • Vista-Cruiser

    Redistricting was determined by the 2010 election. By sitting out that election, Democrats basically consented to Republicans drawing most of the maps, and basically waived any right to complain about those maps later on.