Gerrymandering arguments must prove harm to voters

Gerrymandering arguments must prove harm to voters

The justices left the door open for future challenges to partisan gerrymanders.

"Ultimately, I don't see the Supreme Court having overturned this, even had they ruled on the constitutional merits of it", Brian Westrate, the Republican chair for the Third Congressional District, said to WEAU 13 News on Monday.

"The Supreme Court missed an opportunity today to lay down a firm marker as to when partisan gerrymandering is so extreme that it violates the constitutional rights of voters". The justices are sending the lawsuit back to the lower courts.

For now, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., wrote for the court, there was no good reason to think the plaintiffs had suffered that sort of harm. But outside of serving to warn anti-gerrymandering plaintiffs that they must take care to file their cases sooner, the decision resolves none of the bigger questions that were before the Court.

"Remedying the individual voter's harm, therefore, does not necessarily require restructuring of all of the State's legislative districts", the Chief Justice continued.

The U.S. Supreme Court said a decision on the merits can not proceed without standing, and the plaintiff Democrats did not have it.

In the meantime, the cases against extreme partisan gerrymandering will keep coming. "The technology will only get better, so the 2020 cycle will only get worse".

In the end, it would have been better for the Supreme Court to provide guidance and a meaningful standard to limit partisan gerrymandering.

The Wisconsin case didn't do that, but the North Carolina case tries to. The outcome might have been different, Whitford suggested, if state assembly districts had been drawn more fairly and legislators were under more pressure to compromise across the aisle. Another 17 are split control, with one party in control of the governorship and the other with a majority in at least one of the state legislative bodies. Now, instances of racially motivated voter suppression must be challenged one by one - and, as we saw in the case of Ohio's voter purges last week, these individual cases are often punted back to state election boards, overwhelmingly controlled by the GOP.

And states, including Wisconsin, can still right this wrong. In an unsigned opinion, the court also did not side with Maryland Republicans contesting a single congressional district, which the court also tweeted about.

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The case, Gill v. Whitford, drew a national spotlight leading up to this decision. In Michigan, the nonpartisan organization Voters Not Politicians is pushing for a ballot initiative to create a citizens' redistricting commission.

Roberts responded that cracking and packing must be analyzed at the district level.

The justices had a range of options before them, including a broad, statewide look at the issue in Wisconsin, where Republicans have a huge edge in the legislature in a state that is otherwise closely divided between the parties.

Using Nate's Democratic program, the Democrats could draw districts that - even in a year in which voters shifted Republican and all swing districts went Republican - would leave Democrats likely to win 263 districts, thus holding Congress by an nearly as awesome 45 seats than they needed.

But Roberts said such statewide evaluations were not the way to go.

That meant, Roberts wrote, that the plaintiff could not pursue a claim that his voting power within his district had been diminished by the current voting map.

In a third opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas, who was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, said: "When a plaintiff lacks standing, our ordinary practice is to remand the case with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction". "It really is about voters asking the candidates right now where they stand on this issue and voting for those candidates that will support non-partisan redistricting".

Monday, he was more restrained, saying the problem with the test is that it measures the effect a gerrymander has on the fortunes of political parties, not individual voters.

In early 2016, a federal court found that two House districts in the state were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, because so many African-American voters had been packed in them that the power of the black vote had been suppressed elsewhere. Time serves the Republicans in several ways: the most likely and immanent resignation is from Justice Kennedy who is the weak link in the conservative justices' opposition to doing anything about gerrymandering; the oldest member of the Court is Justice Ginsburg and she is reliable in demanding equal protection in voting arrangements; replacing either of those justices while Trump is president would give Republicans a solid 5-vote majority in all elections cases and just about everything else.

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