It’s being called “the worst election-related decision since Citizens United.”
On June 27th, the Supreme Court declared in a 5-4 decision that it will not intervene to correct partisan gerrymandering in states like North Carolina and Maryland. According to Chief Justice John Roberts, “partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.” The Court has placed responsibility in the hands of state and local legislators to correct partisan gerrymandering.
Partisan gerrymandering is the oldest and most widespread form of gerrymandering in the United States. Politicians have used it since 1788, long before the Boston Gazette even coined the phrase. It is one of those persistent, stubborn plagues of American democracy that prevents it from functioning as described in our founding documents. By packing voters for a given party into as few districts as possible or spreading them out to cover multiple districts, elected officials have routinely chosen their voters, not vice-versa.
It’s also frequently obvious. Gerrymandering gets its name from former Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, who approved a partisan gerrymander that benefitted his Democratic-Republican Party in 1812. The second half of the phrase pays homage to one of the districts Gerry authorized, which was said to resemble a salamander. Other bizarre shapes have included “Goofy kicking Donald Duck” in Pennsylvania, “The Praying Mantis” in Maryland, and “The Upside-Down Elephant” in Texas.
Rorschach tests have their place, but not in our elections.
Many states have begun to adopt improved redistricting standards. Until this issue is corrected on the federal level, however, some people will have more voting power than others based purely on whether their state has chosen to preserve the spirit of democracy. States will have the opportunity to redraw their districts following the 2020 census.
Stamp your money to call out attacks on our voting rights!