State parties across the country have already taken out knives to hack up political maps in the bloody process of redistricting. Now, many states are going to the mat to defend the highly partisan maps that, in most cases, got passed by the dominant political party in the state to the detriment of the minority party. The legal battles—particularly the ongoing Texas saga—are usually based largely around whether or not maps violate the Voting Rights Act. But in Illinois, the bipartisan League of Women Voters is challenging gerrymandered districts based on a new legal claim: that it violates free speech. While a district court already dismissed its claim, the League of Women Voters can—and has—appealed to the Supreme Court. Because it’s a redistricting case, the court will have to rule on the matter.
“This is the first time a really bipartisan group has challenged gerrymandering as a regulation of speech,” says Thomas Geoghegan, the attorney for the group. “What’s really shocking is that in front of our eyes for years the states have been moving people from one place or another based on the views they have expressed not in the polling place…but because you have identified yourself as a Democrat or a Republican.”
The legal argument takes advantage of the Supreme Court’s recent and controversial Citizens United ruling, in which restrictions on corporate spending in political campaigns were deemed restrictions on speech. According to the court, concerns about fairness and balance were not enough to warrant the campaign finance laws.
Full Article: Does Gerrymandering Violate Free Speech?.