Important Supreme Court Ruling on Gerrymandering Gets Lost in Gay Marriage Shuffle

US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to allow independent commissions to draw out districts

US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to allow independent commissions to draw out districts

Amidst the Gay Marriage hysteria following the US Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling allowing same-sex marriage to be recognized throughout the United States, the Supreme Court also ruled on another, more important issue that seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Last week, the Court ruled 5-4 in favor of allowing independent, nonpartisan commissions to draw out the districts for state and local maps. This decision was a giant step for democracy and could drastically change the political landscape moving forward.

The winners of this case, Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission, was formed 15 years ago after the state’s voters approved Proposition 106 and amended the state’s Constitution to take redistricting power away from the Legislature. The Legislature, unhappy with the vote, sued and took it all the way to the nation’s highest Court.

People in the legislature, especially those in the controlling party, like to gerrymander the maps to gain a greater piece of the voter pie. This leads to many issues, like election results that do not target the public sentiment.  This ruling allows states to use independent groups to draw out districts, hopefully eliminating partisan lines that ensure certain districts’ and communities’ votes do not count as much as others.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it best when she, in her majority opinion, wrote “The people of Arizona turned to the initiative to curb the practice of gerrymandering, and, thereby, to ensure that Members of Congress would have an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people.”

She continued, quoting a 2005 gerrymandering case “In so acting, Arizona voters sought to restore ‘the core principle of republican government,’ namely, ‘that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.’ ”

In her justification for the ruling, Ginsburg added that the “animating principle” of our Constitution is “that the people themselves are the originating source of all powers of government.” And since the use of a nonpartisan committee was voted on by the people it was absolutely constitutional.

In his dissent, Roberts wrote the majority’s position “has no basis in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution, and it contradicts precedents from both Congress and this Court.” He even went as far as accusing the majority of using a “magic trick” to impose its policy preferences. “No matter how concerned we may be about partisanship in redistricting, this court has no power to gerrymander the Constitution,” he added.

Gerrymandering has been a problem for a while now, as the party in control attempts to expand certain districts to fit certain characteristics. While gerrymandering has come from both parties, the GOP tend to do the majority of it, leading to under-representation of mainly democratic districts. Here are a few of the worst gerrymandered districts.

North Carolina's district 1 and 12

North Carolina’s district 1 and 12

Florida's 5th Congressional district

Florida’s 5th Congressional district

Maryland's 3rd Congressional district

Maryland’s 3rd Congressional district

Texas' 35th Congressional district

Texas’ 35th Congressional district

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