Given the “one person, one vote” principle is intrinsic to the US Constitution, it is inexplicable that the US Supreme Court would bow out of the partisan gerrymandering issue as not their job. But last week that is exactly what they did:
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that federal judges have no power to stop politicians from drawing electoral districts to preserve or expand their party’s power, a landmark ruling that dissenters said will empower an explosion of extreme partisan gerrymandering.
The 5-to-4 decision was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and joined by the court’s other conservatives. It capped decades of debate about whether federal courts have a role in policing partisan efforts to draw electoral districts in the same way the judiciary protects against racial discrimination.
“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Roberts wrote. “Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.”
In his opinion, Roberts did not defend the practice, or say it was constitutional. “Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust,” he wrote. “But the fact that such gerrymandering is incompatible with democratic principles does not mean that the solution lies with the federal judiciary.”
Well…bullshit…but that leaves the issue in the hands of the electorate if the court won’t address it…the only people who have that power under the Constitution. So what happens next?
The decision comes as the public appears to have grown more outraged by the practice. In the last election, voters in five states either limited the power of state legislators to draw electoral lines or took it away from them altogether by creating independent commissions to do the work.
So how do we fix it in Wisconsin? Well first, Governor Tony Evers is behind a non-partisan redistricting plan. We can certainly support him in those efforts but given the current gerrymandered Wisconsin legislature…that isn’t going to go very far. Yet it makes sense to follow that route since we know that Democrats are also willing to gerrymander when they have the power to do so. It only makes sense to hand redistricting off to an unbiased third party group or committee.
What it’s probably going to take is a voter uprising and an amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution to require a neutral redistricting. And that too will get tremendous push back and draw major dollar contributions from the state GOP and elsewhere. Do you think Wisconsin has the gumption to put this up to a vote?