SCOTUS: NC "Political Gerrymandering" - No Basis to Recognize Claim

June 27, 2019 (UPDATE): After punting on the issue for decades, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the arguments set forth by SLF in its amicus brief (see below) and ruled that courts must stay out of disputes over partisan gerrymandering. In other words, a party cannot bring a claim alleging that redistricting maps were drawn to favor one political party at another’s expense. Today’s ruling is an important one for the rule of law because neither the Voting Rights Act nor the Constitution prohibit the consideration of party affiliation when drawing district lines. As Chief Justice Roberts explains, courts cannot rightfully determine whether a particular drawing is “fair” because such a determination is a political question. Nothing in the Constitution provides standards to decide what is fair, much less the kind of “limited and precise standards that are clear, manageable, and politically neutral” that courts would need. Hopefully today’s opinion will put an end to the issue – which has been pushed by both sides of the political divide. But what is more likely to result will be re-framing of political gerrymandering cases as racial gerrymandering cases which are equally in need of direction from the Supreme Court (link).

February 11, 2019 (UPDATE): Today, SLF joined the American Civil Rights Union in filing an amicus brief in Rucho v. Common Cause, supporting North Carolina’s argument that “courts simply do not have any business making value-laden judgments about how much politics is too much politics in a process that will never be free of politics” – the drawing of district lines. For decades, litigants like Common Cause have done everything they can to reassign redistricting to the federal courts. When they are unable to show an actual violation of the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution, they seek to re-write both documents to include a ban on “political gerrymandering.” However, such a ban does not exist.

After decades of avoiding the issue of whether partisan gerrymandering is constitutional, the Court is now set to answer the question. And, as SLF argues in its amicus brief, there is no basis to even recognize a claim for political gerrymandering.

Click here for SLF/ACRU SCOTUS brief

January 25, 2019: After years of punting on the issue of partisan gerrymandering, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to finally answer whether state officials violate the Constitution by drawing district lines to favor one political party over another. On March 26, 2019, the high Court will hear oral argument in Rucho v. Common Cause and should once and for all declare that partisan gerrymandering claims are nonjusticiable and put an end to the effort to reassign the inherently political task of districting to the federal courts.

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