The Supreme Court on Monday stepped, somewhat hesitantly, into the long-standing constitutional controversy over partisan gerrymandering, accepting a major test case for review but giving itself several ways to avoid deciding it. At issue is the question of whether the process of drawing new election district boundaries is unconstitutional if one political party specifically creates maps giving its own candidates a distinct advantage in getting elected, directly limiting the other party’s chances at the polls. It is a political act that is as old as the American Republic, drawing its name as a “gerrymander” from a member of the Founding generation, Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, for his infamous state senate districting map so misshapen that it resembled an awkward salamander. In its modern form, it is sometimes blamed for the deep partisan polarization of Congress and other legislative bodies, because modern computer science and detailed census data makes it so much easier for those in charge of drawing new maps to place individual voters into districts to make them decidedly Republican or Democratic so as to achieve unequal electoral power.
Sometimes, modern politicians openly admit that they have create redistricting plans that favor their party, because such gerrymandering has never been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court so those politicians have no reluctance to set their partisan goals and achieve them.
A few times in the past, the court has taken on test cases on partisan gerrymandering, but it has refused, each time, to decide them after concluding that it could not come up with a workable constitutional formula on when partisanship had gone too far in a given redistricting process. At the same time, it also has never said it would refuse to take up the issue again.
Full Article: Court may rule on partisan gerrymandering – but maybe not.