How Brett Kavanaugh could freeze gerrymandering reform nationwide

“Common Cause argues that extreme partisan gerrymandering punishes supporters of the minority party based on their political beliefs and in violation of the First Amendment,” the organization said in a statement. “The Supreme Court announcement comes after several states approved major changes to their redistricting processes via ballot initiatives and legislative measures in 2018. Citizens unequivocally said they want to revolutionize how legislative and congressional districts are drawn — by limiting the power of politicians and giving it to mapmakers who value community input and transparency.”

Karen Hobert Flynn, the president of Common Cause, hopes that the Supreme Court can set a rule that would apply to all states, preventing unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.

“Whether it is Democrats or Republicans manipulating the election maps, gerrymanders cheat voters out of true representation,” she stated. “The Supreme Court has the opportunity to set a clear standard that will restore a meaningful vote to millions of Americans disenfranchised by gerrymanders in Maryland, North Carolina and across the country.”

Hasen said he thinks the Supreme Court should stay out of the debate, except in the most extreme circumstances, as intervening would be a top-down approach that could prevent lower courts, legislatures, and independent parties from addressing partisan gerrymandering in a way that more effectively meets the needs of each state and the wishes of voters.

“It is easy to imagine a scenario where the state of Michigan, for example, passes redistricting reform establishing a commission, and Republicans in the Michigan legislature challenge the initiative in federal court arguing that the Constitution’s Article Igives only the state legislature and not the people acting through the initiative process the right to pick the rules for congressional elections (subject to congressional override),” Hasen wrote in the Harvard Law Review post. “Early research shows that while redistricting commissions are not perfect, they tend to draw more competitive lines and avoid the creation of extreme gerrymanders, showing much less partisan bias. But if the Court overrules Arizona, this option will be off the table.”

“In short, just when you think things are bad with election reform, they stand to get a whole lot worse,” he concluded.

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