When voters go to the polls, they deserve to have their votes count equally. But for decades, politicians have rigged districts to boost the votes of their friends and dilute the votes of their enemies. Now a narrow majority of Supreme Court justices has given its blessing to blatant partisan gerrymandering where politicians choose their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians.
Let’s be clear, the fight to end partisan gerrymandering does not end with the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on Thursday. It will continue in state courts, at the polls, in legislatures and in the streets as citizens fight to make their voices heard and to end partisan gerrymandering that robs them of representation.
The court greenlighted two blatant partisan gerrymanders — one by Republicans in North Carolina (Rucho v. Common Cause) and one by Democrats in Maryland (Lamone v. Benisek) — despite the fact that hundreds of thousands in the two states have been stripped of their voice in Washington by power-hungry politicians.
Supreme Court will allow abuse
Several justices, including those who voted with the majority, acknowledged in oral arguments the damage done to our democracy by extreme partisan gerrymandering, and three lower courts have found clear legal standards to evaluate allegations of partisan gerrymandering. Yet the five justices in the majority concluded that the court could not set a constitutional standard to prevent partisan gerrymandering.
Death blow to gerrymandering? Supreme Court had a chance to make all votes count
The repercussions from this decision will be felt nationwide in the wake of the 2020 Census when new district lines are drawn by politicians. Few legal restraints will stop them from creating districts to maximize the political power of their own party and throwing fair representation to the wind.
While the Supreme Court failed to act to curb abusive partisan gerrymanders, the fight is far from over. On July 15, the Superior Court Division of Wake County, North Carolina will hear Common Cause v. Lewis, a challenge to North Carolina state legislative maps under the state constitution. A similar state court challenge in Pennsylvania successfully overturned the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts there. State supreme courts have the final say when citizens bring challenges under state law, so the U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to address this threat to democracy has no impact on a state court strategy.