Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Gerrymandering Case

The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday in a gerrymandering case from Wisconsin. The Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature was so effective in gerrymandering when it redrew the districts after the 2010 census, that the GOP was able to win 61% of the seats in the legislature, even though it got only 49% of the votes.

This is obviously not right, but the Court will have to come up with a principle to base its decision on, if it wants to overturn the gerrymandering, which has become worse and worse with the new computer technologies now available. Kennedy, widely assumed to be the swing vote, indicated in a 2004 case that he felt it should be reined in, if a suitable test could be articulated.

A somewhat humorous statement was heard from Chief Justice Roberts, who, according to a news report, "said the social science metrics would be hard to explain to average people who might assume that the court made a partisan ruling. Such an assumption, he said, could harm the integrity of the court."

I will grant that Roberts has been trying hard to restore the integrity of the Court since he became chief justice in 2005. However, the ridiculous and totally partisan decision in the 2000 election case has ensured that the court will never again command the respect it once had. It is widely recognized now that the Supreme Court is a partisan institution, and nothing Roberts can do will overcome that.

I hope the Court will do the right thing and strike down this blatant gerrymandering, which denies voters their rights. The case seems quite similar to the famous "one man, one vote" case, Baker v. Carr, decided in 1962. I would like to see the Court come up with a persuasive rationale for the decision, one powerful enough to stem the tide of partisan gerrymandering in the state legislatures.

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