High Court Rules Partisan Gerrymandering is Political, not Legal, Issue

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High Court Rules Partisan Gerrymandering is Political, not Legal, Issue

The Supreme Court refused to wade into the fight over partisan gerrymandering. By a 5-4 decision, the high court held that drawing congressional district lines to gain a political advantage is something that should be solved the political process, not court cases.

 

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, rejecting pleas to intervene in cases where politicians had drawn congressional district lines to maximize seats for their party’s candidates. In his decision, Chief Justice Roberts wrote:

 

We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. 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.

 

The justices were deliberating on cases involving gerrymandering in both Maryland and North Carolina. In each state, legislators had devised congressional districts that were drawn in ways that gave maximum advantage to candidates from one party and made it difficult for candidates of the other party to win. Voters in each state sued, saying that this type of partisan gerrymandering deprived them of their right to fair representation.

 

A majority of justices did not necessarily disagree that these maps were unfair. Instead, they held that the solution to this problem is through the elections, not going to court. The four dissenting justices disagreed, saying that there was indeed a constitutional violation in these cases. They argued that such gerrymandering threatens free and fair elections.

 

In most states, elected officials (usually legislators) draw the lines of congressional and legislative districts. However, some states have empowered independent commissions to devise these lines, which supporters claim lessens partisan meddling in the process.

 

Do you think that partisan gerrymandering should be unconstitutional? Should legislators or independent commissions draw congressional and legislative district lines?

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