Supreme Court Declines to Set Limits on Political Gerrymandering

from The Wall Street Journal,

Conservative justices say such cases present political questions that courts can’t decide.

Federal judges have no authority to correct partisan gerrymandering, the Supreme Court said Thursday in a 5-to-4 decision that allows politicians to keep drawing electoral districts that entrench their power unless state law—or future congressional legislation—keeps them from doing so. The decision by the court’s conservative majority overruled lower courts and rejected two constitutional challenges to partisan district mapmaking, one brought by Democrats in North Carolina and another by Republicans in Maryland. “Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust. But the fact that such gerrymandering is ‘incompatible with democratic principles,’ does not mean that the solution lies with the federal judiciary,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote for himself, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. “Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.” The court’s liberal minority issued a woeful dissent. “Of all times to abandon the court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one,” Justice Elena Kagan, her voice sometimes breaking, said in summarizing her dissent from the bench. Partisan gerrymanders “imperil our system of government. Part of the court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations,” she said, none “more important than free and fair elections.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor agreed.

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