The Supreme Court Just Ruled on Gerrymandering

The Constitution of the United States guarantees every citizen the right to vote. However, this fundamental right is not always equally accessible to all Americans. For example, citizens in some states have more opportunities than others to cast their ballots.

This discrepancy has led many people – including prominent members of the Supreme Court – to call for a change in how elections are administered in America.

The executive director of Common Cause in North Carolina has said that lawsuits over party and racial gerrymandering are “as North Carolina as barbecue, tobacco fields and hot, humid summer days.”

The Supreme Court will hear what could be a landmark case on partisan gerrymandering this term. The question before the court is whether state legislatures have sole authority to set the rules for federal elections, subject only to intervention by Congress.

This would significantly change how federal elections are conducted and could lead to more extreme cases of partisan gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is already unpopular with voters, but if legislators are given free rein to draw district lines without restrictions, it could become even more widespread and difficult than ever to correct.

Voters need protection from partisan gerrymandering, which can distort election results and disenfranchise certain groups. Legislation that allows lawmakers to rig maps in their favor should not be passed without careful consideration of its potential consequences.

North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders have proposed an “independent state legislature theory” that could overturn a veto from the governor, remove judicial review of constitutional interpretation, and cast doubt on citizen-initiated reforms to remove partisanship from redistricting and election law.

A revolutionary argument need not be complicated. In brief to the court, the leaders argued that the Constitution “assigns state legislatures the federal function of regulating congressional elections. . . . Because this directive is supreme over state law, the States may not limit the legislature’s direction.”

Despite the Constitution’s acknowledgment that the legislature leads the process, the Supreme Court has never concluded that the usual systems of government, in which legislators are bound by the state constitution and controlled by state courts, should be replaced.

For one thing, the Supreme Court has never decided that these procedures should be abolished and replaced by the Constitution. On Wednesday, we’ll talk about what “legislature” meant to the Founding Fathers and how it informs our understanding of what it means.

The right to vote is one of the most fundamental rights a citizen has, and every eligible voter must be allowed to cast a ballot without obstruction. In recent years, however, this vital process has come under attack from many sides.

Attempts to suppress voting have become more common in recent elections, with tactics like strict voter ID laws and reductions in early voting hours designed specifically to make it harder for certain groups of people—such as racial minorities or low-income individuals—to cast their ballots.

It is especially concerning given the current political landscape in America, which is increasingly polarized along partisan lines. Former president Donald Trump and his allies have waged lengthy battles over the past three years to undermine confidence in the results of the 2020 elections.

Strident Warning:

However, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, and Brett M. Kavanaugh have all voiced support, albeit to varying degrees, for the view that state courts cannot usurp the role of state legislatures in prescribing rules for federal elections in voting disputes leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

This viewpoint has been voiced in connection with the argument that state courts cannot substitute for legislators dictating federal election regulations.

North Carolina Republican GOP leaders tried to stop the Supreme Court from approving a new congressional map by appealing to the court, but the justices ultimately rejected their plea. 

Justices Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch noted dissenting views that they agreed with the majority but thought the legislature had the stronger argument.

“If the language of the Elections Clause is taken seriously, there must be some limit on the authority of state courts to countermand actions taken by state legislatures when they are prescribing rules for the conduct of federal actions,” Alito wrote. “I think it is likely that the applicants would succeed in showing that the North Carolina Supreme Court exceed those limits.”

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