The Supreme Court should end partisan gerrymandering once and for all, according to a recent editorial in USA Today. Partisan gerrymandering has been a consistent stain on American democracy, allowing politicians to choose their voters. In recent years, the problem of partisan gerrymandering has been exacerbated with the use of computer programs that increase the effect of partisan gerrymandering, creating districts that look unnatural in shape to increase the desired political effect.
In Wisconsin in 2012, Democrats won more than 50 percent of the vote statewide but won less than 40 percent of the legislative seats. In Maryland, Republicans make up about 40 percent of the electorate, but there is only one Republican-held congressional seat out of eight. This kind of partisan gerrymandering is abhorrently apparent in more than a dozen states.
Although this undemocratic practice of partisan gerrymandering has been prominent for years, the Supreme Court has been hesitant to end it. Though, the court looks closer than ever to making a ruling on this practice. After hearing cases about Republican gerrymandering in Wisconsin (Gill v Whitford) and Democratic gerrymandering in Maryland (Benisek v. Lamone), a final decision on the practice is expected in June with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote. Right now, it’s anyone’s guess how the Court will rule on either case.
A popular solution to this problem would be to form nonpartisan commissions to draw new congressional maps. They could also be drawn by judge-appointed special masters who are experts at drawing congressional maps; this is what was done by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after ruling the state’s prior congressional map violated the state constitution.
The editorial board at USA Today is right: partisan gerrymandering should end. Voters should choose their politicians; their politicians should not choose them. Congressional maps should be drawn by nonpartisan/bipartisan commissions to end the practice of partisan gerrymander. Additionally, FairVote backed solutions of ranked choice voting and multi-winner districts would also further improve the representation of voters.
All three of these proposals are part of The Fair Representation Act (H.R. 3057), a bill introduced last summer that would remedy much of the dysfunction we’re seeing in our government. These are actionable changes that can be made to strengthen democracy for all Americans. Congress should pass it.