Our Opinion: Court cops out on election rigging

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While the Supreme Court's decision on a citizenship census question was a partial triumph for depoliticizing the election process (see editorial above) the Court Thursday made an unequivocally destructive call on the issue of gerrymandering, or the designing of districts for political advantage.

Once again by the familiar 5-4 vote, and once again with a majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court ruled in two cases that worked their way through lower courts that voters and state officials should be the arbiters of what are political disputes, not the federal government. This cop-out by the Court's conservative wing ignores the reality that through gerrymandering, it is elected officials who are introducing politics into what should be the apolitical process of establishing voting districts, and the voters are unable to resolve those disputes when gerrymandering successfully negates their votes. Justice Roberts even went so far as to note that gerrymandering "is incompatible with Democratic principles," yet he and the other justices declined to remedy the situation.

In a withering dissent, Justice Elena Kagan called the decision "tragically wrong," adding that "for the first time ever, this court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities." A Court that has been activist in nature in recent years did indeed pick a tragically wrong time to throw its hands up and walk away.

This decision will allow the strategies of the late Republican master of redistricting Thomas Hofeller (see editorial above) to be advanced. His objectives were to realign districts to the greatest political advantage of whites, and with Texas, for example, expected to gain congressional seats after the 2020 census. the Republican governor and Legislature have now been given license to freely gerrymander those districts to assure that their party benefits.

Some states have made efforts to address gerrymandering, but for the most part they are not the worst offenders. The Court's dereliction of duty will be felt for many election years to come.



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