The Supreme Court ruled on two major cases regarding gerrymandering on Monday. The decisions, a victory for Republican lawmakers in Texas and North Carolina, allow for the majority of the states’ voting districts to remain in their current design ahead of the 2018 elections.
The term “gerrymandering” refers to the redrawing of districts in order to achieve a balance of voters that will elect a specific kind of candidate. Plaintiffs had argued that districts in both North Carolina and Texas were unconstitutional, as they were both drawn to give an overwhelming political advantage to Republicans. Both cases were decided on a 5-4 decision, with Justice Kennedy siding with the conservative justices.
In the Texas case, the Court ruled that all but one district, Democratically-held state House District 90, could remain in place for the 2018 elections. This decision reverses a lower court ruling that found Texas’s map was unconstitutional and discriminated against minority voters.
On similar grounds to their decision last week on Wisconsin districting, the Supreme Court sent the North Carolina case back down to the lower court, finding that the plaintiffs did not have grounds to bring a suit. North Carolina is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country; in 2016, Republicans won 10 of the 13 congressional seats despite only winning 53 percent of the popular vote.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs in Wisconsin’s redistricting case did not have grounds to bring a lawsuit, sending the case back down to the lower court. In the first statewide election after Wisconsin Republicans redrew the state’s legislative map in 2010, Republicans won just over 48.6 percent of the statewide vote but received 60 of the 99 seats in the state assembly.
The Supreme Court’s decisions for North Carolina and Wisconsin are not based on the constitutionality of the districts, but rather the plaintiffs standing to be able to file suit. Both matters must once again be heard in their respective lower courts.
The only gerrymandering case that has so far resulted in the redrawing of districts was decided in January by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and upheld in February by the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state’s congressional districts violated the state Constitution, not necessarily the U.S. Constitution, and therefore had to be redrawn. Under the old districts, the GOP held 13 of the state’s 18 seats in the House of Representatives despite the fact that Democrats have almost 800,000 more registered voters than Republicans. The districts have since been redrawn, and the new districts will be in place for the 2018 elections.
Media Resources: CNN 06/25/18, The Washington Post 06/19/18, The New York Times 06/25/18, CBS 06/25/18, The Brennan Center 01/09/18, WCBV 06/25/18, The New York Times 03/19/18