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SCOTUS Dealt A Serious Blow to Gerrymandering... But The Fight Is Far from Over

Created: 01 July, 2015
Updated: 15 October, 2022
3 min read

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of independent redistricting commissions to redraw electoral districts. The ruling was a major victory for voters, because it also validated the citizen initiative process and the voter's right to decide how they are governed.

But the legal battle over redistricting is far from over. Politico reported Tuesday that major litigation remains in key battleground states ahead of the 2016 elections.

Continued redistricting litigation — spearheaded mostly by Democrats, who were in the legislative minority in the three states after the 2010 Census, and their allies — involves 51 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts and could allow Democrats to make a dent in the GOP’s near-historic House majority in next year’s elections. The high court’s decision on Monday — that an independent redistricting commission set up in Arizona by ballot initiative is constitutionally permitted to redraw the state’s congressional map every 10 years — actually bolsters Democrats’ case in Florida, where voters in 2010 approved amendments to the state constitution that prohibit legislators from considering partisan composition and incumbent protection when drawing new districts. Had the Arizona Legislature succeeded in convincing the court that cutting the Legislature out of the redistricting process was unconstitutional, opponents of the Florida Fair Districts amendments could have sued to have the restrictions on the Legislature there regarding congressional districts struck down as well. Florida’s GOP-controlled Legislature was already forced to redraw the map last summer, after groups linked to Democrats sued under the Fair Districts amendments. The new map, which made slight tweaks to the districts represented by Democrat Corrine Brown and Republican Daniel Webster, was passed last August — too late for the 2014 elections — and is scheduled to take effect next year. - Politico, June 30, 2015

Read the full article here.

Florida isn't the only state, either. A recent U.S. Supreme Court case in Alabama may alter electoral maps in Virginia and North Carolina as well. Courts have found that both states intentionally packed African-American voters into certain districts in order to ensure Republican candidates or incumbents won in other districts. The high court rejected Alabama's predominant use of racial gerrymandering in March.

The Virginia General Assembly has until September 1 to redraw its legislative map as ordered by a federal court. The Supreme Court in April ordered the North Carolina Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to uphold the state legislature's most recent electoral maps. The case will go before the state Supreme Court on August 31.

In the new session, the Supreme Court will also take up a case in Texas, where the state's use of total population to draw electoral districts is being challenged. Two voters, joined by the Project on Fair Representation, argue that drawing electoral maps based on total population instead of the eligible voter population violates the Supreme Court precedent of "one person, one vote."

A decision in this case is expected in early 2016.

The Arizona decision was a victory for all voters, not just Arizona voters, because the Supreme Court upheld the use of the ballot initiative as a means to take our political destinies into our own hands. Partisan gerrymandering is over 200 years old and it has contributed to a political system that is unfair and unrepresentative of the people. The Arizona decision didn't end partisan gerrymandering, but it was a major step in the right direction.