Tag Archives: gerrymandering

The death of democracy is in our demographics, and our antiquated Constitution

Ezra Klein at Vox.com made several important observations about our democracy in a recent post about President Trump’s nomination of an associate justice to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court vs. democracy:

Such appointments are becoming the norm. With Justice Kennedy’s replacement, four out of the Supreme Court’s nine justices — all of whom have lifetime tenure — will have been nominated by presidents who won the White House, at least initially, despite losing the popular vote.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. America, for all its proud democratic rhetoric, is not actually a democracy. Until and unless the country chooses to abolish the Electoral College, it will remain not-quite-a-democracy, with all the strange outcomes that entails. Liberals may complain, but the rules are the rules, and both sides know what they are.

But the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc doesn’t just reflect the outcomes of America’s undemocratic electoral rules; it is writing and, in some cases, rewriting them, to favor the Republican Party — making it easier to suppress votes, simpler for corporations and billionaires to buy elections, and legal for incumbents to gerrymander districts to protect and enhance their majorities.

The Supreme Court has always been undemocratic. What it’s becoming is something more dangerous: anti-democratic.

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SCOTUS conservatives continue their assault on voting rights

After sending two gerrymandering cases back to the lower courts for further deliberation last week, SCOTUS punts on two gerrymandering cases, the Court had two additional redistricting cases currently under consideration.

The Court also sent the case from North Carolina, Rucho v. Common Cause, back to the lower court this morning as well, Supreme Court sends case on North Carolina gerrymandering back to lower court:

The Supreme Court on Monday sent back to a lower court a decision that Republicans in North Carolina had gerrymandered the state’s congressional districts to give their party an unfair advantage.

The lower court will need to decide whether the plaintiffs had the proper legal standing to bring the case.

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When a three-judge panel invalidated the map of congressional districts, it became the first to strike a congressional map on the grounds that it was rigged in favor of a political party [i.e., partisan gerymandering].

North Carolina has a past at the Supreme Court, with redistricting plans struck down as racial gerrymanders. So when the state legislature adopted new plans in 2016, Republican leaders made clear they were drawing the lines to help their party, instead of basing their decisions on racial data.

What these three remands mean is that Justice Anthony Kennedy is not yet ready to rule on partisan gerrymandering cases.

The conservatives on the Court did decide a racial gerrymandering case today from Texas, Abbott v. Perez (.pdf), in which a divided court split along ideological lines 5-4 largely siding with the state of Texas. Some disturbing opinions from Justices Thomas and Gorsuch suggested that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to racial gerrymandering in redistricting, in the conservatives continuing efforts to further gut the Voting Rights Act.

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SCOTUS punts on two gerrymandering cases

The U.S. Supreme Court began the day with 19 argued cases yet to be decided. This included two of the most highly anticipated cases of this term involving political gerrymandering, Gil v. Whitford (Wisconsin) and Benisek v. Lamone (Maryland).

Today the U.S. Supreme Court disappointed everyone by punting on these two cases. It was an anticlimactic end to these gerrymandering cases, which are likely to return in the future with additional cases moving through the appellate courts pipeline.

In Gil v. Whitford (.pdf) Chief Justice Roberts held that “The plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate Article III standing.”

The right to vote is “individual and personal in nature,” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533, 561, and “voters who allege facts showing disad- vantage to themselves as individuals have standing to sue” to remedy that disadvantage, Baker, 369 U. S., at 206. The plaintiffs here al- leged that they suffered such injury from partisan gerrymandering, which works through the “cracking” and “packing” of voters. To the extent that the plaintiffs’ alleged harm is the dilution of their votes, that injury is district specific. An individual voter in Wisconsin is placed in a single district. He votes for a single representative. The boundaries of the district, and the composition of its voters, deter- mine whether and to what extent a particular voter is packed or cracked. A plaintiff who complains of gerrymandering, but who does not live in a gerrymandered district, “assert[s] only a generalized grievance against governmental conduct of which he or she does not approve.” United States v. Hays, 515 U. S. 737, 745.

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SCOTUS to hear second case of partisan gerrymandering on Wednesday

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in a partisan gerrymandering case from Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford, last October. The case provided an initial test for the efficiency gap, a proposed standard for determining discriminatory effect that counts the number of votes each party wastes in an election to determine whether either party enjoyed a systematic advantage in turning votes into seats. A decision is still pending.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a second case of partisan gerrymandering from Maryland, Benisek v. Lamone. This case provides an initial test of a First Amendment theory under political association.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog has an Argument preview:

In October, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case alleging that Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature had drawn the state’s redistricting plan to put Democrats at a disadvantage – a claim known as “partisan gerrymandering.” The plaintiffs challenging that plan argued that it violated their constitutional right to be treated equally under the law, but Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that the issue might be better framed as a violation of the freedom of speech and association guaranteed by the First Amendment. [On Wednesday], the justices will hear oral argument in another redistricting case – this time, a challenge by Republican voters to a single federal congressional district drawn by Democratic officials in Maryland – presenting precisely that question. The Supreme Court’s rulings in the Wisconsin and Maryland cases will almost certainly shape the face of redistricting for years, if not decades, to come.

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SCOTUS rejects GOP appeal of PA congressional map, more redistricting cases to follow

The legal strategy of challenging GOP gerrymandering under state constitutional provisions rather than federal law has proven successful in Pennsylvania. Abstention doctrine applies, i.e., the federal courts lack jurisdiction to hear appeals from state Supreme Court decisions interpreting state constitution provisions.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal from GOP legislative leaders in the state of Pennsylvania challenging the Supreme Court of the state of Pennsylvania imposing new congressional districts after having struck down GOP gerrymandered districts as unconstitutional under the state constitution. Supreme Court refuses to stop new congressional maps in Pennsylvania:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from Republican legislative leaders in Pennsylvania to block a redrawn congressional map that creates more parity between the political parties in the state.

The practical impact is the 2018 elections are likely to be held under a map much more favorable to Democrats, who scored an apparent victory last week in a special election in a strongly Republican congressional district. The 2011 map that has been used this decade has resulted in Republicans consistently winning 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats.

Monday’s action was the second time that the court declined to get involved in the partisan battle that has roiled Pennsylvania politics. The commonwealth’s highest court earlier this year ruled that a map drawn by Republican leaders in 2011 “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the free-and-equal-elections clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court deliberated nearly two weeks before turning down the request to stop the map from being used in this fall’s elections. Generally the justices stay out of the way when a state’s highest court is interpreting its own state constitution.

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AZ Senate approves evil GOP plan to undermine the AIRC

Last month I warned you the Evil GOP bastards are trying to negate the AIRC so the legislature does redistricting maps again.

Yesterday the evil GOP bastards in the Senate approved their amended but still flawed plan on a party-line vote. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports Senate passes redistricting overhaul on party-line vote:

On a 17-13 party line vote, the Senate advanced an amended version of Senate President Steve Yarbrough’s proposal to alter the structure of the Independent Redistricting Commission, an effort Democrats charged was politically motivated.

Voters would have to approve the plan, though.

As amended, SCR 1034 (.pdf) increases the size of the commission from a five- to nine-member body, with an equal split among Republican, Democrat and independent commissioners. Yarbrough, R-Chandler, argued that the effort will better represent the roughly one-third of Arizona voters who aren’t registered with a political party and will dilute efforts by either party to “hijack” the redistricting process in their favor.

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