The Washington Post’s Supreme Court reporter Robert Barnes reported Sunday on the status of gerrymandering cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Opponents of gerrymandering keep winning, but it might not affect 2018:
Opponents of gerrymandering have won a historic string of victories in the courts recently, yet millions of voters will cast their ballots this fall in districts that judges have declared to be unconstitutional.
Federal courts in Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin found that either politics or intentional discrimination played an unacceptable role in drawing electoral lines and ordered new districts in place for the 2018 elections.
But the Supreme Court stopped them all. The justices are traditionally reluctant to order changes in an election year, for one thing. And they have never thrown out a state’s redistricting plan because they found it so infected with partisan bias that it violates voters’ constitutional rights.
Unless and until it does — the subject is under review at the high court — the justices have routinely told states found to be offenders that they do not have to immediately redraw the maps, which almost surely means they won’t be in place for the 2018 elections.
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The most consequential of the stay requests is at the Supreme Court right now, and the decision could play a role in determining which party controls the House after the November midterm elections.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled that the congressional map drawn by the Republican legislature in 2011 “clearly, plainly and palpably violates” the commonwealth’s constitution. It demanded a quick redrawing of the lines so that 2018 elections could be held in fairer districts.
But Republican legislative leaders in Pennsylvania have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put the decision on hold.
One of the most GOP-gerrymandered states in the country is Pennsylvania. Today the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the GOP-gerrymandered congressional districts as violative of the Pennsylvania state constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redistricted.
The Washington Post reports, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court just gave Democrats a big win on redistricting:
In a decision that could tilt the congressional balance of power in a key swing state in favor of Democrats, Pennsylvania’s highest court decided Monday that the state’s GOP-drawn congressional districts violate its Constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redrawn in the next few weeks.
Less partisan congressional districts could give Democrats a chance this November to win back as many as half a dozen seats that had been lost to them over the past decade. It could also give the party a major boost in its quest to take back the House of Representatives, where Democrats need to net 24 seats to win control of the chamber.
“Yet another gerrymandered district map thrown out!!” tweeted Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) of the news.
“Today’s decision is a victory for democracy and another blow to the Republican Party’s nationwide effort to game the system,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, in a statement.
In a 4-to-3 decision, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered the Republican-controlled state legislature to redraw the lines by Feb. 9, an extraordinarily quick timeline that will reset the districts in time for the state’s May congressional primaries. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will have veto power over the maps.
Posted in AZBlueMeanie, Congress, Constitution, Corruption, Courts, Election Integrity, Elections, Party Politics, Redistricting, Scandals, Science
There has been a lot happening in partisan gerrymandering lawsuits lately, and luckily Rick Hasen at Elction Law Blog has put together a summary of where these cases stand today that will save me a lot of time. The State of Play on Partisan Gerrymandering Cases at the Supreme Court:
Back in 2004 the Supreme Court in Vieth v. Jublelirer split 4-1-4 over what to do about claims that partisan gerrymandering violates the U.S. Constitution. Four Justices said it was non-justiciable, four Justices said it was justiciable and raised a variety of challenges, and Justice Kennedy, in the middle, agreed with the Court’s liberals that the cases were justiciable, but agreed with the Court’s conservatives that the proposed standards didn’t work. He essentially told everyone to keep working on the issue and come back, maybe looking at the First Amendment, maybe history, and maybe computers. The cases at or coming to the Court seek to satisfy Justice Kennedy in various ways.
Here’s the state of play; the Supreme Court heard argument in October in Gill v. Whitford involving a challenge to state legislative districts in Wisconsin. Gill raises a partisan gerrymandering challenge under the Equal Protection Clause, and the McGhee/Stephanopoulos “efficiency gap” figured in (but was not the entire basis) for the analysis. Last month, the Court somewhat surprisingly also agreed to hear full argument in Beniske v. Lamone, a case challenging a Maryland congressional district as a partisan gerrymander under the First Amendment. I explained in this LA Times piece why the Court might have agreed to full argument in Benisek v. Lamone. Argument in the Maryland case will be later in the Spring.
Posted in AZBlueMeanie, Congress, Constitution, Courts, Election Integrity, Elections, GOP War On..., Party Politics, Redistricting
Tagged Equal Protection, First Amendment, gerrymandering, Voter Purges, voter suppression, voting rights, Voting Rights Act of 1965
While the U.S. Supreme Court grapples with the question of ending partisan gerrymandering of House seats, little attention is paid to the truly undemocratic Senate where each state, regardless of population, has two senators, the result of the Connecticut Compromise between the large states which wanted equal representation in Congress based on population, and the smaller states that worried about losing autonomy to the larger states. The undemocratic nature of the Senate offended many of the framers but it was necessary in order to obtain ratification of the Constituion by the states. It was a compromise of political expediency that has long since outlived its purpose.
America has developed from a rural agrarian society in 1787 to an urban population overwhelmingly concentrated in large metropolitan cities. This has resulted in the United States now being a non-majoritarian democracy, in which small rural states weild a disproportionate share of political power over the majority living in more populous states.
E.J. Dionne Jr., Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann,the authors of “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet-Deported,” explain this dynamic in an op-ed today, Why the majority keeps losing on guns:
Why does our political system make it impossible even to consider solutions to gun violence? After the massacre in Las Vegas that has so far taken nearly 60 lives and left more than 500 injured, the first reaction of the many politicians who carry water for the gun lobby was to declare it “premature” to discuss measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
The “premature” word echoed from President Trump’s White House on down, and those who used it were really saying that Congress would never enact even modest efforts to prevent mass shootings. This is damning evidence of the stranglehold that far-right lobbies have on today’s Republicans, who extol law and order except when maintaining it requires confronting the National Rifle Association.
But something else is at work here. As we argue in our book, “One Nation After Trump,” the United States is now a non-majoritarian democracy. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, that’s because it is. Claims that our republic is democratic are undermined by a system that vastly overrepresents the interests of rural areas and small states. This leaves the large share of Americans in metropolitan areas with limited influence over national policy. Nowhere is the imbalance more dramatic or destructive than on the issue of gun control.