On Thursday in a huge loss for democracy, SCOTUS ruled 5-4 that complaints about partisan gerrymandering will not be policed by federal courts. Gerrymandering is defined as “manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to favor one party or class.” The reason why this issue is so pressing is because local authorities are currently allowed to shape legislative maps based on the districts they choose. In the case of Rucho v. Common Cause, the court was deciding whether the plaintiffs had justifiable claim to challenge North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map. In fact, a legislator who helped draw one of the questionable maps at hand, Rep. David Lewis, publicly said, “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats so I drew this map in a way to help foster what I think is better for the country.” Gerrymandering literally allows politicians to bundle the majority of voters they want into their own districts, swaying elections and redistributing votes.
The majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh said, “Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust. But the fact that such gerrymandering is ‘incompatible with democratic principles,’ does not mean that the solution lies with the federal judiciary. We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.” (Oyez).
One clear example of how gerrymandering works is through the prison system. After each Census, people are counted based on where they reside, therefore determining how many citizens are in each district. When people are incarcerated, instead of being counted as residents where they’re from, they’re instead labeled in the rural districts of each prison. Now, the disproportionate population of young Black and Brown men from urban areas are not considered rural constituents to add to the legislator’s district count and the politician doesn’t even have to worry about garnering the extra citizens’ votes because their right is taken away upon imprisonment. Thus, prison gerrymandering assists more unlawful politicians gain their political seats in an extremely unethical, but now legal way.
Justice Elena Kagan said it best in her dissent (alongside liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonya Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer), “For the first time ever, this court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.”