The Supreme Court is once again stepping in to determine whether an electoral procedure as old as the republic violates the Constitution.
Monday, the nation’s highest court announced it will begin looking into gerrymandered election maps for evidence of discrimination against minorities. If uncovered, the results from the Court’s decision could fundamentally change how we conduct elections.
Gerrymandering is the process by which electoral officials manipulate district boundaries to favor particular political parties. It has been standard practice since before the first United States Congress’ election in 1789.
According to Wikipedia:
“The word ‘gerrymander’ (originally written ‘Gerry-mander’) was used for the first time in the Boston Gazette (not to be confused with the Boston Gazette) on 26 March 1812. The word was created in reaction to a redrawing of Massachusetts state senate election districts under the then-governor Elbridge Gerry (pronounced /ˈɡɛri/; 1744–1814). In 1812, Governor Gerry signed a bill that redistricted Massachusetts to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party. When mapped, one of the contorted districts to the north of Boston was said to resemble the shape of a salamander.“
Though obviously partisan, it’s perfectly legal. In fact, Supreme Court justices are frequently called upon to invalidate state electoral maps deemed to have been illegally drawn to depress racial minorities’ electoral influence.
Some justices have argued whether they should even go that far.
However, a divided panel of three federal judges in Wisconsin last year ruled the state’s Republican leadership in 2011 forced a redistricting plan that violated the Constitution’s First Amendment protecting free speech and Fourteenth Amendment providing equal protection under the law.
After agreeing to hear the case, the Court voted five to four to stay the lower court’s decision requiring the state to redraw legislative districts this fall. But Wisconsin argued that would create unnecessary work should the Supreme Court later decide to overturn the lower court’s decision.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, went on record stating they would have denied the stay on the lower court’s decision. The more conservative justices supported it.
As has always been the practice, both Democratic and Republican parties draw congressional and legislative districts to their advantage. In fact, a challenge to congressional districts Maryland Democrats drew is currently in the courts.
Voters across Wisconsin serving as plaintiffs state:
Supreme Court Justices will begin hearing arguments in October.
Check out this video for more information about the case currently waiting to be heard by the Supreme Court (after the jump):
Featured Image: Screenshot Via YouTube Video.