Supreme Court Says States, Congress Must Handle Gerrymandering

By: - June 27, 2019 12:00 am

Activists at the Supreme Court opposed to partisan gerrymandering hold up representations of congressional districts from North Carolina, left, and Maryland, right, as justices hear arguments in March about the practice of political parties manipulating the boundary of a congressional district to unfairly benefit one party over another, in Washington. Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected challenges to congressional district maps in Maryland and North Carolina, despite arguments that they discriminated against minority parties.

Claims of partisan gerrymandering are “beyond the reach of the federal courts” and should be addressed by state or federal lawmakers, the court ruled in a 5-4 decision.

The majority decision by Chief Justice John Roberts said the court doesn’t condone “excessive partisan gerrymandering” but doesn’t see a role for federal courts when “numerous states are actively addressing the issue” and Congress also has the power to “to do something about partisan gerrymandering.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissenting opinion, saying that gerrymandering “not only subverts democracy (as if that weren’t bad enough), but it violates individual’s constitutional rights as well.”

The underlying lawsuits claimed discrimination against Democrats in North Carolina and against Republicans in Maryland, saying that the majority parties had drawn districts that unfairly consolidated their own power.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the majority opinion. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

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Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson covers demographics for Stateline. He has been a reporter at the Miami Herald, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Journal News.