Political Editors / Jun. 28, 2019

SCOTUS Rules It Has No Role in Gerrymandering

"Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties."

Gerrymandering can be an ugly process and often yields bizarrely shaped electoral districts. But it is, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, an inherently political process best left to those who practice politics. “We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority of five conservative justices. “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.”

According to The Daily Signal, “The justices decided on two cases merged, one about a congressional district in Maryland benefiting Democrats, and another about a congressional district in North Carolina benefiting Republicans. The high court vacated lower court rulings that each state had to redraw the maps.”

Justice Elena Kagan read her dissent from the bench, which usually only happens when a justice feels particularly strongly about issuing a rebuke of the ruling. “In giving such gerrymanders a pass from judicial review, the majority goes tragically wrong,” Kagan wrote. “For the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities. If left unchecked, gerrymanders like the ones here may irreparably damage our system of government.”

That’s a bit overwrought, though we also think National Review’s Robert VerBruggen is correct to argue, “When legislators use their power at one point in time to lock in a structural advantage until the next decade’s census — deliberately watering down the votes of some of the people they’re supposed to be representing — they abuse the process and undermine faith in the political system. And the potential for abuse has become worse with time, as sophisticated computer software has allowed gerrymanderers to craft future election results with far more precision than was once the case.”

“None of this violates the Constitution,” VerBruggen concludes. “But it is bad and we should stop it.”

Democrats happily gerrymandered districts to hurt Republicans in the past. The only reason they’re crying about it now is because they spent recent years (particularly 2010) losing elections all over the country and thus lost control of the process. And going forward, they’ll stop at nothing to rig all election-related processes to their advantage.

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