September 6, 2017
For immediate release
FairVote files amicus brief in groundbreaking Supreme Court gerrymandering case and lays out potential remedies embodied in Fair Representation Act: “Partisan gerrymandering threatens to undermine the premise of our representative democracy”
The Supreme Court will hear Gill v. Whitford this fall, the first time in more than a decade that the Court has taken on the issue of partisan gerrymandering. FairVote, along with One Nation, One Vote, yesterday filed an amicus brief in support of the appellees William Whitford et al. They agree with a lower court in Whitford that partisan gerrymandering is a constitutional issue that the courts must remedy -- and suggest that fair voting methods in multi-winner districts are a particularly promising, straightforward remedy.
"Partisan gerrymandering threatens to undermine the premise of our representative democracy, the promise of the Declaration of Independence, and the power of the Constitution,” said Justin Nelson, counsel for FairVote and One Nation One Vote. “It is time for partisan gerrymandering to end.”
If the Supreme Court holds that excessive partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, lawmakers and the courts will have many options available to restrain the injection of unnecessary politics into the districting process. These options go beyond independent redistricting commissions, as the brief details. The strongest option is currently before Congress: The Fair Representation Act (HR 3057).
“The Whitford case promises to be a game-changer,” said Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote. “And the key game to change, ultimately, is ending our reliance on winner-take-all elections. As embodied by the Fair Representation Act, combining ranked choice voting with multi-winner districts drawn by impartial commissions is the one sure way to ensure that it is truly the voters who pick their representatives and not the other way around.”
As the brief explains, ranked-choice voting combined with multi-winner districts makes partisan gerrymandering far more difficult and less effective. Electing more winners with ranked choice voting greatly increases the number of voters who help elect someone -- no matter who draws the lines. It reduces the incentive of the dominant party to “crack” or “pack” the other side’s voters. By diminishing the importance of district lines, it allows nearly all voters to elect candidates of their choice, and would make excessive partisan gerrymandering extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible.
Gill v. Whitford grew from the Wisconsin state legislative districts drawn by that body during the 2011 redistricting process. In 2012, the first election run on those maps, Republicans won 60 of 99 seats despite winning fewer overall votes than Democrats. Several Wisconsin voters filed suit, calling the maps an excessively partisan gerrymander -- and in 2016, a lower court agreed. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in October.
“This is potentially the most important democracy issue that the Supreme Court will take on this generation,” said David Daley, a FairVote senior fellow and author of the best-selling book on gerrymandering Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count. “If Justice Kennedy and the Court determine that a standard exists to measure when a partisan gerrymander has gone too far, the remedies outlined here would once again make our democracy responsive to everyone.”