All rise. The fearsome gerrymander is back before the Supreme Court of the United States.
In the days since SCOTUS announced its decision to review partisan district-drawing cases in both Maryland and North Carolina, the already hot topic of gerrymandering grew even more fiery, with both sides anxious to see what the nation’s highest court does - or doesn’t do - to intervene.
Last year, the court punted on a prior version of the same Maryland case it will revisit this term; it similarly declined to weigh on a separate partisan gerrymandering case in Wisconsin. With Justice Brett Kavanaugh now seated in place of former Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote in key decisions who indicated interest in reining in partisan gerrymanders, some legal experts are even more skeptical the court will act.
But the stakes are even higher now, as the post-2020 Census redistricting looms large on the horizon. As Paul Smith, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, “If the Supreme Court fails to set limits on this undemocratic practice, we will see a festival of copycat gerrymandering in 2020 the likes of which the country has never seen before.”
The prospect of more extreme gerrymandering than what happened in the post-2010 redistricting, which FairVote Senior Fellow Dave Daley dubbed “the most audacious political heist of modern times” in his 2016 book on the topic, presents an ominous future for voters and democracy.
We certainly stand behind those who have used the courts to fight for fair maps, and hope the Supremes will dub this important issue worthy of their judgement. That said, a SCOTUS ruling is not a panacea, but a part of what needs to be a larger discussion of how to use system reforms like ranked choice voting and multi-member districts to create a government which represents and empowers voters.