Politics

Supreme Court Ruling Deals Blow To Gerrymandering

| by Ethan Brown

A group made of up nonpartisan political scientists and scholars will remain in charge of the redistricting process of congressional districts, according to one of the latest rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling, approved 5 to 4, sides with Arizona voters who approved an amendment granting authority to an independent group to control how boundary and district lines are drawn for congressional districts in the future. The commission is an attempt to stop the process of gerrymandering, where lawmakers purposely create districts, based on race, income and other factors, that will advantage their own party in future elections.

“Arizona voters sought to restore the core principle of republican government, namely, that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the majority opinion.

The Supreme Court’s ruling affects political strategies for both parties — Arizona Republicans were hoping to clinch two more U.S. House seats with redistricting, while Democrats in California were looking to add to their majority, Bloomberg News reported. Now, neither will likely become possible.

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The court’s decision will only apply to federal congressional districts. State districts will still be crafted by legislators, although state districts carry less influence than federal districts in elections.

Arizona Republicans objected to the decision, citing the U.S. Constitution as proof that redistricting belongs to state officials, not independent commissioners.

“Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof,” states the Constitution’s elections clause.

In the past, the Supreme Court has largely left gerrymandering and redistricting cases to the states. The court is becoming more involved in what have become political issues, having recently ruled on health care, gay marriage and the death penalty.

Writing for the dissent was Chief Justice John Roberts, who has been recently criticized for his support of the Affordable Care Act.

“No matter how concerned we may be about partisanship in redistricting, this court has no power to gerrymander the Constitution,” he wrote.

Sources: Bloomberg News, the Washington Post

Photo Credit: Josh Graciano/Flickr Creative Commons