GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona has joined Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a lower court order that would make some partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional. The bipartisan pair have asserted that gerrymandering undermines Americans' faith in their democracy.
On Oct. 3, both McCain and Whitehouse released an official statement calling on SCOTUS to rule in favor of outlawing the drawing of electoral district lines to favor one party over another.
"The Court can clean up a cause of America's crisis in Confidence in our democracy, protect our elections from wildly partisan 'bulk' gerrymandering, and return control of our elections to the people," the two senators said, according to Time.
"The American people do not like gerrymandering," the statement continued. "It leaves them feeling powerless and discouraged; that their votes are wasted and voices silenced. They see it rigging our political system to favor special interests."
McCain and Whitehouse added that partisan gerrymandering made districts less competitive and representative, concluding that the current district lines "have a corrosive effect on the American democratic process."
Gerrymandering is the process of state legislatures drawing congressional district lines every 10 years. Critics have asserted that controlling parties can draw district lines to give themselves an unfair advantage in future elections.
"Close to a hundred congressional seats and thousands of state legislative seats have been strategically drawn to be noncompetitive at the expense of all others interests," said co-founders Sam Wang and Brian Remlinger of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, according to The Week. "As a consequence, tens of millions of voters have had no meaningful say in who represents them."
On Oct. 3, SCOTUS heard the first oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford. The lawsuit was mounted by the Democratic Party in Wisconsin, who asserted that the state's GOP-majority legislature had committed partisan gerrymandering when they redrew district lines in 2011.
In 2012, GOP candidates garnered only 48.6 percent of the statewide vote in Wisconsin but captured 60 of the 99 state legislative seats. Meanwhile, Democrats won only 39 seats despite garnering a larger share of the vote, according to NPR.
In 2016, a federal court ruled that the Wisconsin Legislature had violated the 14th Amendment through partisan gerrymandering. SCOTUS will decide whether or not to uphold that ruling and potentially create a new standard for the drawing of district lines in 2021.
On Sept. 5, McCain and Whitehouse filed an amicus brief in the SCOTUS case, arguing that excessive partisan gerrymandering should be unconstitutional, The Hill reports.
"From our vantage point, we see wasted votes and silenced voices," the two senators said in their brief. "We see hidden power. And we see a hidden problem."