Posted by Heba Mohammad on June 27, 2019 in Blog

This term, the Supreme Court heard two consolidated cases asking whether political gerrymandering is unconstitutional.

The two cases argued in front of the Court were Lamone v. Benisek, which challenged a congressional maps drawn by Democrats in Maryland who rejected proposals to increase minority representation in favor of a political gerrymander, and Rucho v. Common Cause, which challenged a congressional map drawn by Republicans in North Carolina enacted only after a racial gerrymander was struck down. Both maps were drawn by politicians who openly admitted they endeavored to ensure the other party would get as few seats as possible in the upcoming elections. 

“The Court’s decision today puts the responsibility of fixing a broken system back into the hands of the people, who will continue to fight for a fully functioning democracy,” says AAI Executive Director Maya Berry. “There is no question about it: the public supports independent redistricting efforts. Five states passed redistricting reforms by ballot initiative in 2018, adding themselves to the chorus of states with mandated redistricting accountability. While the Supreme Court’s ruling was not ideal in that it did not provide universal standards, this is, by no means, a dead-end on the journey to independent redistricting reform. We will fight on.”

The Supreme Court side-stepped its responsibility to ensure that all American voters have an equal say in our elections, and have allowed politicians to explicitly and intentionally choose their constituents, instead of allowing voters to choose their representatives.

The impact of gerrymandering is far reaching, especially in Michigan where federal courts found the existing congressional map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Examples like this are why, in 2018, AAI officially endorsed Proposal #2 in Michigan, which reformed the state’s redistricting process by amending the its constitution to implement a nonpartisan redistricting committee. In total, 17 states employ a form of accountability on redistricting, and 7 of those states rely on independent citizen redistricting commissions. The maps created by these commissions are among the most fair and reliable because they are developed using a transparent process, the districts are based on community criteria, not partisan data, and residents, not politicians, draw the maps. 

AAI recognizes the importance of finding a solution to gerrymandering, particularly as the country prepares for the 2020 Census and the redistricting to follow in 2021. As more states look to remodel their processes for redistricting, we support efforts to implement independent redistricting committees as a fair, voter-oriented means of redrawing districts. The ripple effects of maps drawn to intentionally dilute voters’ voices will be felt for years to come. The enduring viability of our democracy relies on every vote counting, and Americans continue to stand up to representatives who are attempting to draw them out of relevance. 

Despite this decision that gerrymandering is not within the purview of federal courts, AAI will continue to support independent, nonpartisan redistricting efforts at the state level across the country.