Gill v. Whitford: Gerrymandering at the Supreme Court

from Brennan Center

With Gill v. Whitford, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken the most important case in decades dealing with how Americans are represented in Congress and state legislatures. The case focuses on a Wisconsin legislative map drawn in 2011 by the state’s Republican leadership to give their party a significant, enduring partisan advantage ? essentially, to keep their party in power regardless of the will of the voters. By striking down the state’s map, the Court could finally draw a clear line indicating that some partisan gerrymanders are so extreme and harmful to American democracy as to be unconstitutional. With 2021’s redistricting looming, the stakes are high. But there is good reason to believe the Court will take a stand in favor of fair maps, and against the manipulation of district lines in a way that undermines the representation and accountability at the heart of our American democracy.

More here.

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2 Responses to Gill v. Whitford: Gerrymandering at the Supreme Court

  1. Jimmy Bedoya September 29, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    America has always presented itself as a country with a government that either identified itself as a democracy or a republic. However, whatever the government chooses to identify itself as, America has always enforced the fact that the power of the country falls in the hands of its people. But quite frankly, America has never worked that way. America constantly stresses how everyone has the power to vote and that voting is one of the best privileges Americans have, yet it is important to note that is never the case. America has an electoral college that is in charge of making the very last decision in who is elected. This is one of the few examples that demonstrates the choices and opinions of Americans are being manipulated for someone else’s personal preferences. Ironically, enough America was also built on the belief that no one man will ever have entire control over the country to avoid having the country be a tyranny. Thus, America formulated a legal system based on this ideology known as the separation of powers. The separation of powers consists of three different branches holding different responsibilities, which are in charge of keeping each other in line. The different departments are known as the legislative, the judicial, and the executive branches. The legislative branch is in charge of making the laws and includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. The executive branch consists of the president, vice president, and the president’s Cabinet. They are in charge of overseeing the armed forces and implementing and enforcing the laws. The judicial branch is made up of the Supreme Court, who is in charge of determining the significance of the laws and whether they follow or break the rules of the U.S constitution. Though this ideology prevents any one branch from having too much power, there is no one reprimanding and supervising the branches from within. The downfall then exists in the possibility that these different branches could be corrupted and influenced negatively depending on those in charge internally.

    Gerrymandering is the act of manipulating boundaries within the legal system in order to favor the incentives of certain politicians. This is another form of political corruption and abuse of power. As of September 17th, it was reported that the state assembly map drawn by the Wisconsin Legislature was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. After evaluating the map with a three-part test, the Supreme Court discovered that the map demonstrated bad intentions in order to maximize the Republican advantage within the state. Though Democrats had won a majority of the Assembly votes in Wisconsin between the years of 2012 and 2014, Republicans still managed to win 60 of the 99 Assembly seats. The Republican Party then tried to argue that they had won the majority of the seats due to their natural geographic advantage, stating Republicans have a tendency of being spread out throughout the state. The court argued in response that the alleged political geographic of Wisconsin “does not explain adequately the sizeable disparate effect”. The court will now make sure a new map is drawn correctly and fairly. In order to avoid something like this in the future, I believe there should be people appointed federally to draw state assembly maps. In any situation or state, there could be the possibility of the state map being altered to the liking of a certain person or party. There are already many counts of corruption alone with cases of gerrymandering that are unfortunately overlooked. It is not fair to the political parties who get the short end of the stick and especially not fair to American voters who look forward to seeing their votes go in effect. Therefore, it would be of the government’s best interest to either appoint one person to draw each state assembly map based on statistics or have one person appointed by each state. In my opinion, it is the only way to avoid a dilemma like this in the future and the only way to ensure accuracy and fairness.

  2. Carolyn Wyland October 7, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

    I think the topic of gerrymandering is a hot topic that seems to be an issue with every election, not just the specific case that the Supreme Court is reviewing. I am interested to see the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling as it will set precedent and perhaps stop future problems from occurring. I agree that gerrymandering is disruptive to democracy and is unconstitutional. The voting rights laid out in the constitution are there so a fair, untampered election can take place. In 2017, I think the boundary lines of each county should be well determined. Most communities have been in place for decades now and to try to justify moving the boundary lines seem like a hard sell.

    The line of “the accountability at the heart of American democracy” really stands out to me. It points out that no one has been held accountable for gerrymandering in the past. It seems that although the issue has been brought up it just falls to the waist side and is accepted. The heart of American democracy is supposed to be the values of this country that are instilled through Americans including politicians. Democracy is not a term that should be thrown around and the manipulating of where county lines are as a means for who will receive more votes is a contradiction to the Constitution.

    I also find gerrymandering very hypocritical from a nation who wants to instill democracy on other countries. For instance after the invasion of Iraq a key mission was to allow all Iraqis safe, fair elections. If America wants to be the example of democracy than it needs to fix a few of its issues first. I believe along with gerrymandering laws other political reform needs to take place, such as term limits on all politicians. Having the same people re-elected perpetuates the cycle of political issues in America. I hope that the ruling for Gill vs. Whiteford is able to start the movement America needs.

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