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LULAC v. Perry - A Clear Explanation of the Supreme Court's Decision on Texas Redistricting

by David Moon // Published June 29, 2006
Many in the election reform world have been eagerly anticipating the outcome of the recently decided case of LULAC v. Perry (aka - The "will Tom DeLay's re-redistricting be upheld?" Case). Since the decision is roughly 130 pages long, and chopped into four parts with four additional sub-parts - FairVote thought it might be helpful to clearly explain where the Justices stood on the issues in this case:

Part I: Concurring: *Kennedy, Roberts, Alito Concurring in part, dissenting in part: *Stevens, Breyer

Part II-A: Concurring: *Kennedy, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer Concurring in part, dissenting in part: *Stevens, Breyer

Part II-B: *Kennedy

Part II-C: *Kennedy

Part II-D: *Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg

Part III: *Kennedy, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer

Part IV: Kennedy, Roberts, Alito

The Case: Concurring in part, dissenting in part: *Souter, Ginsburg Concurring in part, dissenting in part: *Breyer Concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, dissenting in part: *Roberts, Alito Concurring in judgment in part, dissenting in part: *Scalia, Thomas - joined by Roberts, Alito as to Part III

Note: An asterix indicates that the Justice authored the opinion.

Does that clear things up?

I didn't think so -- but redistricting is a complex issue, and heck even some of our supposedly wisest legal minds (albeit from different sides of the judicial-political spectrum) couldn't agree on much. But this fractured ruling in part stems from the conflict in values that different redistricting approaches will have -- do you value competition or having most voters represented (these are mutually exclusive under our single-member winner-take-all system). Proportional voting is the only way to lessen the impact on those values of line - drawing and let voters decide.

One thing is clear though -- the only challenge that survived the Supremes was the Voting Rights Act claim (striking down one Congressional District on behalf of latino/Hispanic voters) - meanwhile, the elusive quest for standards to regulate partisan gerrymandering now seems like a fool's errand.

Summary? -- If you want to do something about this mid-decade redistricting and partisan line-rigging, the court says "talk to Congress, not us." But FairVote welcomes that call. We've been advocating for national redistricting standards long before this decision came down. Rep.'s John Tanner (D-TN) and Zach Wamp (R-TN) have introduced the Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act (HR 2642 - companion bill sponsored by Sen. Tim Johnson), and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has introduced a national redistricting reform bill too. Both of these bills would ban mid-decade redistricting and bring minimal national standards to govern how lines are drawn. While this wouldn't be a magic-bullet solution to our electoral woes (ie: lack of competition, under-representation of women and communities of color, one-party control of most districts, etc), this would at least reduce the ability of politicians to try and punish their enemies and use reapportionment for party-bossing.

More importantly, this would be a step in the direction of stronger federal regulation of our patchwork system of running elections. The variations that currently exist between state redistricting processes are vast -- but it means that any one state can skew the make-up of our national "People's House" through their redistricting process (whether it is independent or not).

So when the Supreme Court hangs up the phone on the American public, its time to pick up the phone and call your Congressional Representative next. Heck, even Nancy Pelosi's office issued a statement responding to this case calling for national redistricting standards. I put in a call to find out which bill they were supporting and haven't heard back yet -- but I'll be doing my part.