Justices decide not to decide on gerrymandering
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that federal courts have no authority to review partisan bias in the drawing of electoral districts. The decision punts the thorny issue of partisan gerrymandering back to state and federal lawmakers to oversee fair redistricting.
Voters in North Carolina and Maryland filed suits claiming their state legislatures drew congressional maps unfairly. In North Carolina, where the legislature is controlled by Republicans, voters alleged that the maps were drawn to keep the majority in power. In Maryland, where the legislature is controlled by Democrats, voters alleged the maps were drawn to move a district away from Republican control. The justices in the 5-4 majority condemned instances of partisan gerrymandering but said that it falls to the states and Congress to pass laws policing the practice. Chief Justice John Roberts, who authored the majority opinion, dubbed the issue a political question, not a legal one.
The decision sends both cases back to the lower courts with orders to dismiss them for lack of jurisdiction. Similar cases in Ohio and Michigan have been on hold waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision. The court has in the past ruled against gerrymandering related to racial discrimination but has not set a specific standard for partisan gerrymandering.
Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the majority opinion. Kagan wrote, “For the first time ever, this court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.”
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