Gerrymandering should be a supreme court issue

Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing boundaries to districts to give a party a better chance of getting more candidates elected. The practice is technically legal right now, since no supreme court ruling has outlawed it. The constitution does give the right to draw these boundaries to the elected officials in power, but it did not foresee that the level of partisan politics today would lead to such discriminatory practices. The end result is that the electorate that is unfavorable for the party in power is stuffed into fewer districts to stifle their voting power, effectively diluting the effect of their vote and violating our system for equal representation.

There are few aspects about our democracy as undemocratic as gerrymandering. The abuse of power by politicians on both sides of the political divide is harrowing, but not entirely surprising. We can’t provide a mechanism to give politicians the one thing they fight for every year (reelection), and then expect them to not use it. The founding fathers did not expect the drastic demographic shifts our country has undergone that has created discrete divides with enable partisan districting. The entire right for a politician in power to choose his/her electorate begs a larger discussion about the constitution needing an update (see Jefferson’s letter to Samuel Kercheval detailing this), but I think the more plausible short-term answer here lies in convincing the supreme court to rule on this matter at a federal level.

For some background, Justice Kennedy has now passed two verdicts on the question of whether the supreme court should take up the case of gerrymandering. In both 2004 (Vieth v. Jubelirer) and 2018 (Gill v. Whitford), he has asserted that unless we can agree on a clear metric that judges whether a district is drawn in an undemocratic manner, the matter should be left up to state courts. However, I believe the supreme court is exactly the body that should be ruling on this matter. The practice strips our right to freedom of expression, and that is worth ruling upon.


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