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Axios: Supreme Court Weighs Limits on Gerrymandering

How do you feel about SCOTUS taking up gerrymandering?

by Alyssa Milano | 3.25.19

Get the latest from Axios, and click above to add your voice and join the conversation! How do you feel about SCOTUS taking up gerrymandering?


The Supreme Court this week will wade back into a fundamental question about American democracy: whether partisan gerrymandering can ever go too far.

The big picture: State lawmakers have gotten a lot more sophisticated and a lot more aggressive about redrawing their state’s legislative districts to help their party stay in power.

  • "I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country," the architect of North Carolina’s 2016 redistricting process said. His plan is now before the high court.

Driving the news: The justices will hear two hours of oral arguments Tuesday: one hour about North Carolina’s mapand one hour about a Democratic-led gerrymander in Maryland. Rulings are expected in June.

Why it matters: Critics say extreme partisan gerrymandering undermines the basic premise that each person’s vote counts equally.

  • In North Carolina, for example, Republicans won 53% of the popular vote in 2016, yet ended up controlling 77% of the seats in the state legislature — the exact breakdown they were aiming for when they drew their map.

The other side: The most interesting debate here isn't partisan, but rather a divide between voting-rights advocates and conservatives who argue that redistricting is a quintessentially political process and the courts should stay out.

Where it stands: The Supreme Court has never struck down a partisan gerrymander. It has never said a state legislature crossed the line in trying to secure a partisan advantage — in fact, it has never even said whether there’s a line to cross.

  • Then-Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed poised to draw such a line during the court's last term, but ultimately punted ahead of his retirement.
  • Chief Justice John Roberts, who has become the court’s ideological center in Kennedy’s absence, seemed concerned last time around about wading into a political process.

-Sam Baker

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images

Alyssa Milano

Written by Alyssa Milano

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