After a 2017 survey organized by the Campaign Legal Center revealed the overwhelming level of opposition to partisan redistricting schemes, the election-reform group FairVote summer things up with a three-word message: “Everybody Hates Gerrymandering.”
The Campaign Legal Center’s bipartisan survey — which was conducted by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake and Republican pollster Ashlee Rich Stephenson — found that 71 percent of Americans wanted the US Supreme Court “to define a standard that ends extreme partisan gerrymandering.”
Unfortunately, this US Supreme Court is not inclined to respond to popular cries for fair maps and real choices on Election Day.
Despite being handed a challenge to extreme gerrymandering that went to the heart of the matter, and that was tailored to respond to concerns raised by at least some of the justices, the Court on Monday refused to set a standard.
In an unsigned opinion, the justices rejected a challenge to gerrymandering in Maryland. At the same time, in response to a groundbreaking case from Wisconsin, the Court declined to consider the merits of the argument that gerrymandering of the state in 2011 by Governor Scott Walker and his Republican allies had effectively denied Democratic voters fair representation of their views and values in the State Assembly.
The justices said they were not convinced that the plaintiffs had standing to bring the suit—despite the fact that the plaintiffs had prevailed when the case was heard by a panel of federal judges. The high court has now sent the case back to the lower court, where the plaintiffs can have another go at making arguments that might prevail.
With no small measure of understatement, The New York Times explained after Monday’s frustrating avoidance of the issue by the justices that “The decisions were a setback for critics of partisan gerrymandering, who had hoped that the Supreme Court would decide the cases on their merits and rule in their favor, transforming American democracy by subjecting to close judicial scrutiny oddly shaped districts that amplify one party’s political power.”
The hopeful notion that the Supreme Court might before this year’s elections upend partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin—and by extension the rest of the country—had faded as the clock ticked further and further into 2018. But now the prospects for a judicial remedy seem even more distant. Not hopeless, mind you, but far off—as in, the Supreme Court won’t come riding to the rescue anytime soon.