Law Review: Partisan U.S. Supreme Court allows rigged gerrymandering to continue
Gerrymandering is designed to establish political advantage for a particular party by manipulating voting district boundaries. The term comes from Elbridge Gerry, who as governor of Massachusetts in 1812, signed a bill that created a partisan district in the Boston area that was compared to the shape of a salamander — thus gerry-mander. Slimy, no matter what you call it.
In a controversial 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court just upheld North Carolina’s and Maryland’s partisan, rigged congressional voting districts.
NORTH CAROLINA’S ‘RED MAP’
The North Carolina Republican-dominated Legislature admittedly rigged and redrew boundaries in its Congressional districts to create a 10-3 advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives even though votes cast in those races were split equally between Democrats and Republicans.
The redrawn boundaries were so corrupt the redistricting project was commonly referred to as the “Red Map.” Individuals drawing the maps later testified the districts were drawn to “minimize the number of districts in which Democrats would have an opportunity to elect a Democrat candidate.” Dems did the same thing in Maryland.
SUPREME COURT PUNTS
The federal appeals court acknowledged the corruption and directed the North Carolina parties to meet and confer with the goal of adopting an appropriate redistricting plan. The decision was appealed to the now Trump/McConnell Court so the writing was on the wall.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion for his conservative brethren acknowledging that “excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust.” He cited a previous court ruling calling it “incompatible with democratic principles.” Sounds good so far. What went wrong Mr. Chief Justice?
Retired Justice Kennedy once wrote: “partisan gerrymandering jeopardizes the ordered working of our Republic and of our Democratic process … at its most extreme, the practice amounts to rigging elections.” Believe me, North Carolina’s convoluted districts were most extreme.
Here’s what galls me most about the opinion. The Chief Justice wrote this topic is not the business of the courts, partisan gerrymandering should be addressed by Congress (fat chance) or state legislatures. Think about that.
Who rigged the districts in the first place? State legislatures. The Supreme Court is referring the matter back to the very folks who designed the corrupt system. What’s the point of having a Constitution if not to protect the rights of the citizens to have their votes count?
Justice Kagen wrote the dissenting opinion noting that gerrymandering is “anti-Democratic in the most profound sense … Of all times to abandon the Court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one … tragically wrong.” I could not agree more.
Mr. Personality, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, must be very proud of his Court. I wonder how he will feel when the Republicans are no longer in control and have their votes diluted. We can only hope state legislatures will address the issue by establishing non-partisan voting district commissions as California has done. I have little faith.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at email@example.com or http://www.portersimon.com.
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