Federal judges have yet again struck down North Carolina’s congressional districts as an unconstitutional gerrymander, dealing Republicans a blow and throwing the state’s maps into chaos just months before a pivotal midterm election. A three-judge panel, including one circuit-court judge and two district-court judges, ruled Tuesday evening that the Old North State’s redistricting plan relied too heavily on partisan affiliation in drawing constituencies, violating citizens’ rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution. The decision is the first time a federal court has ever struck down a redistricting plan as a partisan gerrymander. The final word, however, will likely come from the Supreme Court, which is considering two partisan-gerrymandering cases.
Wisconsin: The research that convinced SCOTUS to take the Wisconsin gerrymandering case, explained | Nicholas Stephanopoulos/Vox
In June, the Supreme Court agreed to hear its first partisan gerrymandering case in more than a decade. This case, Gill v. Whitford, involves a challenge to the district plan that Wisconsin passed for its state house after the 2010 Census. The case also involves a quantitative measure of gerrymandering — the efficiency gap — that has created a bit of a buzz. One reporter compares it to a “silver-bullet democracy theorem” and a “gerrymandering miracle drug.” Another speculates that it may be the “holy grail of election law jurisprudence.” I’m an attorney in Whitford and the co-author of an article advocating the efficiency gap, so I appreciate the attention the metric is getting. But I still think much of this interest is misplaced. The efficiency gap is, in fact, a simple and intuitive measure of gerrymandering, and I’ll explain why in a minute. But the true breakthrough in Whitford isn’t that plaintiffs have finally managed to quantify gerrymandering. Rather, it’s that they’ve used the efficiency gap (and other metrics) to analyze the Wisconsin plan in new and powerful ways. These analyses are the real story of the litigation — not the formulas that enabled them.
Editorials: Constitutional Connections: Race, partisan gerrymandering and the Constitution | John Greabe/Concord Monitor
For the most part, the Constitution speaks in generalities. The 14th Amendment, for example, instructs the states to provide all persons the “equal protection of the laws.” But obviously, this cannot mean that states are always forbidden from treating a person differently than any other person. Children can, of course, be constitutionally barred from driving, notwithstanding the Equal Protection Clause. Thus, there is a need within our constitutional system to refine the Constitution’s abstract provisions. Otherwise, public officials and the people would not know what is permitted and what is forbidden. The process of refinement has devolved principally (although not exclusively) to the courts. It is the courts that have told us that the Equal Protection Clause permits the states to discriminate on the basis of age in issuing driver’s licenses, but ordinarily does not permit the states to treat persons differently on the basis of their race.