Editorial writers at the Charlotte Observer got things right today in their takedown of the Supreme Court’s dreadful new gerrymandering ruling. As the author’s note in “A Supreme Court cop-out on gerrymandering”:
Justice Elena Kagan, in a blistering dissent, responded: “For the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.”
We agree. If there ever was a time for the Supreme Court to give voting back to the voters, it was now. The Justices had before them two cases of egregious district drawing — one from Republicans in North Carolina and one from Democrats in Maryland. Together, they were a reminder that gerrymandering is a bi-partisan scourge on voters, an affliction perpetrated by the powerful wanting to keep power, regardless of political party.
In North Carolina, Republicans were especially unabashed about it. When the General Assembly met in 2016 to pass a congressional map involved in Wednesday’s case, Republican Rep. David Lewis, co-chair of the elections committee responsible for the maps, said he believed “electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats”…
…Previously, the Supreme Court had done what courts sometimes do — make rulings around the periphery instead of cutting to the issue at hand. Gerrymandering was wrong, the Justices said for example in 2016, if districts were drawn to intentionally disenfranchise groups by race. In response, N.C. Republicans did what lawmakers often do — dial back on racial gerrymandering just enough to satisfy the Court while drawing maps that still gave them a partisan advantage.
Such was the case for the Justices stepping in — because lawmakers, for the most part, act in their own self interest. Republicans and Democrats have shown they’re concerned with gerrymandering only when it blocks them from power. Those in the majority quickly abandon the protests they once made.
Which is why Thursday’s ruling is so dispiriting. Voters needed the Court to do what lawmakers won’t — to correct an unconstitutional practice, to declare the law as it so often does, to provide Americans with free and fair elections. Instead, it shrugged.