The Supreme Court says federal courts have no role to play in policing political districts drawn for partisan gain. The decision could embolden political line-drawing for partisan gain when state lawmakers undertake the next round of redistricting following the 2020 census.
The justices said by a 5-4 vote on Thursday that claims of partisan gerrymandering do not belong in federal court. The court’s conservative, Republican-appointed majority says that voters and elected officials should be the arbiters of what is a political dispute.
The court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland. […]
Chief Justice John Roberts said for the majority that the districting plans “are highly partisan by any measure.” But he said courts are the wrong place to settle these disputes.
* New York Times…
The drafters of the Constitution, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority, understood that politics would play a role in drawing election districts when they gave the task to state legislatures. Judges, the chief justice said, are not entitled to second-guess lawmakers’ judgments.
Justice Elena Kagan dissented for the court’s liberals. “For the first time ever, this court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities,” she wrote.
Kagan underscored her disagreement by reading a lengthy excerpt of her dissent from the bench.
While the Supreme Court regularly scrutinizes electoral districts for racial gerrymandering, the justices have never found a state’s redistricting map so infected with politics that it violates the Constitution. Such a decision would have marked a dramatic change for how the nation’s political maps are drawn.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, in his 2018 campaign pledged to veto a gerrymandered map if he received one from the Democratic-controlled legislature. He also cited his support for an independent map process and even donated $50,000 to a citizens’ initiative movement in 2014.
But with veto-proof supermajorities of Democrats in the Illinois House and Senate, Republicans were skeptical about potential action by the majority party following the high court’s ruling Thursday.
State Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon, the House deputy GOP leader, issued a tweet that said, “Only ‘big decision’ here is whether the House and Senate Democrats will override Gov. Pritzker’s veto of a partisan gerrymandered map — which he publicly pledged to veto.”
CHANGE Illinois, which had been a leading proponent of the citizens’ initiative remap effort, issued a statement calling the court’s decision “disheartening” and looked to Pritzker to “live up” to his pledge for fair representation.
I was asked at my City Club speech last December how long I expected the honeymoon to last between Gov. Pritzker and Speaker Madigan. If I recall correctly, I said that Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown told me he figured it would last until it was time to draw the new maps.