Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering Violates The Constitution
Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on partisan gerrymandering was about politics, not the Constitution. The Court's five conservative justices decided that the judiciary has no authority to prevent the majority party in a state's legislature from creating federal election districts that have no relationship to the partisan balance of the state. Their ruling is wrong, but more distressing, it's entirely about political power. Republicans have the majority in more state legislatures and thus have had more opportunity for partisan gerrymandering. The Court's decision will allow that to continue.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion in RUCHO v. COMMON CAUSE. He reasoned that the make-up of congressional voting districts was a political question that the Court could not intervene in even after admitting that, “Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust.”
Roberts: “We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Roberts wrote. “Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.”
He is wrong. Extreme partisan gerrymanders make elections irrelevant and thus undermine the basis of representative government. In other words, if you live in a district that has been so gerrymandered as to make elections pointless, democracy becomes meaningless to you? Of course the judicial branch has the authority to address that.
Justice Elena Kagan's eloquent and powerful dissent explains why the Court must act to address extreme political gerrymandering.
Kagan: "If there is a single idea that made our nation (and that our nation commended to the world), it is this one: the people are sovereign. The “power,” James Madison wrote, “is in the people over the Government, and not in the Government over the people.
"Free and fair and periodic elections are the key to that vision. The people get to choose their representatives. And then they get to decide, at regular intervals, whether to keep them."...
"Gerrymandering helps create the polarized political system so many Americans loathe. And gerrymandering is, as so many justices have emphasized before, anti-democratic in the most profound sense. In our government, “all political power flows from the people.” And that means, as Alexander Hamilton once said, “that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.”
Republicans will rejoice, but Rucho v Common Cause is a stain upon the Court's reputation and will reinforce the notion that the Robert's Court is deeply political. Kagan reminds us of why that is lamentable at this point in the nation's history.
Kagan: "Of all times to abandon the court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one. The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections."
By: Don Lam & Curated Content