The Supreme Court’s decision to distance the federal judiciary from an upcoming battle over gerrymandering could have an impact that changes the landscape of American politics for years to come.
Thanks to a series of recent moves by the nation’s highest court, federal judges will have to turn a blind eye to partisan gerrymandering nationwide, The Hill reports, teeing up what could be an all-out war between Democrats and the GOP over district lines.
G. Michael Parsons, a scholar at New York University School of Law, explained to The Hill:
Now that the Supreme Court has officially retreated from the area, they’ve set off what will likely be an arms race between the parties to gerrymander to the fullest extent they can in the states where they hold control.
After the census is held every 10 years, state leaders get the chance to redraw boundaries separating congressional districts. Doing so with an eye toward grouping like-minded voters together, particularly in an effort to help one’s own party, is often referred to as gerrymandering, as The Hill notes.
Until recently, the job of holding state governments accountable for indiscretions in the redistricting process fell to the courts. Now, with the latest redraw fast approaching in the wake of the 2020 census, it seems the tide is turning — and not for the better.
The Hill reports that in one 2019 decision, which fell “along familiar ideological lines, the court’s conservative majority ruled that lawsuits over partisan gerrymandering raise a political question that is beyond the reach of the federal courts, handing a stunning defeat to voting rights advocates.”
What’s more, it doesn’t seem Congress will be making any headway toward banning the practice. Democrats were hoping to include such a measure in their sweeping election reform package, known as the For The People Act, but the bill was swiftly tabled by Republicans, The Hill noted.
Indeed, unless the GOP takes back control of Congress in 2022, it could be years before the issue of gerrymandering is actually tackled at the federal level.
In the meantime, experts are reportedly worried that without SCOTUS to intervene, and with new technology in hand, those charged with redrawing district lines will enjoy a gerrymandering free-for-all.
“I think the Roberts Court’s voting rights decisions have hastened democratic decline, and [the 2019 case Rucho v. Common Cause] marks a particularly dangerous turning point because it officially sanctions the pursuit of partisan advantage as a permissible exercise of state power,” Parsons told The Hill.
“Some justices have implied as much in prior cases, but Rucho‘s majority holding makes this explicit,” the NYU professor added.
Both Republicans and Democrats have a lot to lose as the lines are redrawn. Only time will tell how bitter the fight for control will be, but one thing is for certain: We won’t see the courts weighing in this time around.