Tag Archives: gerrymandering

Politicizing the Census Bureau for GOP authoritarianism

Steve Benen warns of an ominous development at the U.S. Census Bureau. Trump eyes radical choice for the Census Bureau:

The Census, conducted every 10 years by constitutional mandate, is one of those incredible important tasks that most people probably find rather dull. That’s a shame because getting this right has an enormous impact on everything from federal spending to representation in Congress.

With that in mind, it was disappointing when Census Bureau Director John Thompson, in the midst of a funding fight, decided to resign unexpectedly in May. Making matters worse, we’re just now getting a look at the replacement Donald Trump apparently has in mind. Politico reports:

The Trump administration is leaning toward naming Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience, to the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, according to two people who have been briefed on the bureau’s plans.

Brunell, a political science professor, has testified more than half a dozen times on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, and is the author of a 2008 book titled “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.”

Some Trump personal choices are alarming, some are disheartening, and some belong in the you-have-got-to-be-kidding me category.

As Slate explained earlier this year, “The decennial census is critical to ensuring that Americans are fairly represented in Washington, since it’s used as the basis for congressional redistricting. A mishandled census could undercount poor and minority populations, putting some states and many cities at a demographic disadvantage.”

It’s against this backdrop that Trump is eyeing someone who has not only played a direct role in helping Republican gerrymandering efforts, but who quite literally wrote a book criticizing competitive elections.

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Justice Kennedy is the key vote to ending partisan gerrymandering

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Gill v. Whitford on Tuesday, in which the justices will decide whether Wisconsin’s electoral maps are the product of an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

From the oral argument transcript, it appears that Justice Anthony Kennedy is seeking an answer to end partisan gerrymandering, and he will be the decisive vote.  If so, he will be the author of the opinion in this case, and he will influence other redistricting cases from North Carolina, Virginia and Texas on the court’s docket.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog reports, Argument analysis: Cautious optimism for challengers in Wisconsin redistricting case?

The district court may have regarded this case as a “straightforward” one, but few justices seemed to share that sentiment today. That’s not particularly surprising, because the issue of partisan gerrymandering has deeply divided the Supreme Court in the past. Thirteen years ago, the justices rejected a challenge to Pennsylvania’s redistricting plan, with four justices agreeing that courts should decline to review partisan-gerrymandering claims, because it is too hard to come up with a manageable test to determine when politics plays too influential a role in redistricting. Four other justices would have allowed courts to review partisan-gerrymandering claims. That left Justice Anthony Kennedy, who agreed that the Supreme Court should stay out of the Pennsylvania case but suggested that courts could play a role in reviewing partisan-gerrymandering cases in the future if a workable standard could be found.

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SCOTUS to hear partisan gerrymandering case today

This morning the U.S. Supreme court will hear oral argument in Gill v. Whitford, in which the justices will decide whether Wisconsin’s electoral maps are the product of an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog has a detailed preview of the legal posture of this case and the claims being assertedon appeal.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder writes at the Washington Post, Redistricting has broken our democracy. The Supreme Court should help fix it.

When the Supreme Court hears arguments today in Gill v. Whitford, contesting Wisconsin’s legislative map, it will have a chance to rein in an aggressive new breed of data-driven gerrymandering that divides communities and diminishes the voice of many Americans. The record is clear, and the Supreme Court must take this opportunity to protect the right to fair representation that is embedded in our Constitution and our values.

I’ve spent a lot of time with maps since finishing my term as attorney general and dedicating my time to a push for a fair redrawing of legislative districts. These maps — created as a result of some Republicans’ bad faith redistricting efforts after the 2010 Census — are impressive in their geographic creativity but destructive to the representative democracy that our founders envisioned. Republicans created a House seat in Ohio that is only contiguous at low-tide; a House seat in Virginia that can only be connected by a boat ride on the James River; and a House seat in Michigan that is shaped like a snake and designed to pack as many minority voters into one district as possible.

Many Republicans across the country have wielded the gerrymander to manipulate the people’s right to vote into unconscionable partisan advantage. In 2012, Democrats won 1.5 million more votes than Republicans in races for the  House of Representatives, yet Republicans gained a 234 to 201 seat advantage. In 2016, despite winning fewer than half of all votes for the House, Republicans still held an advantage of 241 to 194 House seats. A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that partisan gerrymandering has created a “durable majority” of 16-17 seats for Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. Just seven states, where the maps were drawn and approved solely by Republicans, account for almost all of this bias.

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SCOTUS to review partisan gerrymandering in Whitford v. Gill

I gave you the background on this case earlier this year. Whitford v. Gill: Partisan gerrymandering case before SCOTUS.

On Monday, the Supreme Court granted review of this case in its next term, while also staying the lower court’s order requiring new maps be put on hold until they can resolve the state’s appeal.

This case has the potential to be a landmark opinion, for good or for bad, depending upon how the court rules.

We currently have a system in which the voters do not choose their elected representatives; elected representatives choose their voters through partisan gerrymandering, which can be done with mathematical precision to ensure “safe” districts. This destroys any notion of competitive elections in a democratic society. It is the way in which elections truly are “rigged.”

Amy Howe at SCOTUS blog explains, Today’s orders: Court to tackle partisan gerrymandering:

The Supreme Court will once again wade into the world of partisan gerrymandering – that is, the practice of purposely drawing district lines to favor one party and put another at a disadvantage. The justices announced today that they will review Wisconsin’s appeal of the decision by a three-judge district court striking down, as the product of partisan gerrymandering, the redistricting map that the Republican-controlled legislature created after the 2010 census. The lower court also ordered the state to create a new redistricting plan by the fall, but a deeply divided Supreme Court today put that order on hold. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case, which is likely to come next year, will almost certainly be a major one that could affect redistricting efforts for decades to come.

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Texas racial gerrymandering, Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering headed to SCOTUS

Slate has a good summary of the decision of the federal district court for Texas on Thursday that, once again, struck down the district lines drawn by the Texas legislature for intentional racial discrimination. Federal Court: Texas Intentionally Gerrymandered Its Districts to Dilute Minority Votes:

On Thursday, a three-judge federal court ruled that Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters in drawing its state House district map in 2011. The decision follows a similar ruling by the same court in March holding that Texas also drew its federal congressional districts in an effort to dilute minority votes. Thursday’s ruling marks the third time in recent weeks that the federal judiciary has found Texas to have intentionally burdened its Hispanic voters.

The majority attached a 151-page findings of fact to its already lengthy opinion, reflecting careful analysis of Texas’ gerrymander that will be difficult for the Supreme Court to ignore on appeal. In short, the court found that Texas legislators drew multiple House districts that diluted Hispanics’ votes, a violation of both the Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The court also found that the legislature had engaged in race-based gerrymandering, which similarly runs afoul of equal protection and the VRA. Finally, the court concluded that the House map violated the one person, one vote principle by creating districts within unequal populations, another Equal Protection infringement.

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Whitford v. Gill: Partisan gerrymandering case before SCOTUS

John Oliver on his “Last Week Tonight”show Sunday night did a segment on Gerrymandering (video) that, while informative and funny, barely mentioned towards the end of the segment what may become a landmark case in the next term of the U.S. Supreme Court (unless affirmed) from the state of Wisconsin, Whitford v. Gill (No. 16-1161).

It’s time to get up to speed on this pending case.

Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog explains the posture of this case, The WI Gerrymandering Case and the Costs of Mandatory Jurisdiction:

The 2-1 federal court decision striking down Wisconsin’s redistricting plans for the state legislature as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, Whitford v. Gill, is without doubt the most significant lower federal court decision on partisan gerrymandering the lower courts have ever issued. The case will also come to the Court in the Supreme Court’s mandatory, appellate jurisdiction — which now exists only for a tiny sliver of cases, including challenges to statewide redistricting plans.

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