Jim Porter: U.S. Supreme Court sidesteps partisan gerrymandering case
The U.S. Supreme Court was asked to rule on a partisan gerrymandering case in Wisconsin: Gill. v. Whitford.
The Wisconsin Republican Party’s technique was by “cracking” aka “splitting” certain Democrat voters among different districts so those voters failed to achieve electoral majorities and “packing” aka “stacking” other Democrat voters in a few districts in which Democrat candidates win by large margins.
The Republican Party defended the technique arguing that the challenging plaintiffs lacked “standing” because their legally protected voting rights applied only to the legislative district in which they vote rather then all the districts (whose districts were also gerrymandered). Are you kidding me?
In the face of blatant partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts in Wisconsin, specifically designed and carved out by Republicans to ensure victory at the expense of Democrats, the Court punted, sending the case back to the trial court.
How the Court could not write a scathing opinion ruling the attempt to manipulate voting outcomes by selectively re-mapping legislative districts is beyond me. A lot of things are beyond me.
WHAT A PILE
Please Justice Kennedy (swing vote) step up and do the right thing, rule that when legislatures manipulate electoral districts to affect the outcome of elections, Democrats or Republicans (pick your poison), it should be unconstitutional and outlawed outright. No beating around the bush.
In Wisconsin, Republicans who control the state Legislature drew district lines so that even when Democrats should have won a decisive statewide victory in terms of votes, the Republicans carried nearly two-thirds of the legislative seats — by manipulation. In Maryland, Democrats likewise drew congressional district lines to favor Democrats.
To my disappointment Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the majority Opinion, concluded it was not enough to show partisan intent and dilution of the rights of voters in the state overall. He wrote that the voters challenging the partisan gerrymandering would have to prove that individual voters in each challenged district must show proof of harm that they personally were disenfranchised. What a pile.
Justice Kagan wrote a minority opinion where she laid out a road map for how voters could prove their case on an individual basis, district by district. It seems to me, if even one district was proven to be redesigned to manipulate results, essentially disenfranchising voters, the whole system should be thrown out — or at least that district should be ordered redrawn by independent consultants or the court, or by special committee, as is done in California.
The Court sent the plaintiffs back to the lower federal court — where the trial court had ruled in favor of the challenging plaintiffs — to make their case on an individual district by district basis.
Justice Thomas ruled for the gerrymandering Republicans. But of course.
How can the public have faith in the electoral process when the party in charge of state politics is allowed to rig the voting system? That’s a violation of the 14th Amendment right to equal protection and the Supreme Court is not going to convince me otherwise.
When this case returns to the Court, I hope Justice Kennedy will remember what he wrote in Vieth v. Jubelirer: Partisan gerrymandering jeopardizes the ordered working of our Republic, and of the Democratic process … at it’s most extreme, the practice amounts to “rigging elections.”
Come on Justice Kennedy, you can do it.
Justice Kennedy announced his retirement this week, so much for a balanced Supreme Court.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.portersimon.com.