Partisan Gerrymandering Must End

The Supreme Court must side with the American people, not partisan operatives.
09/06/2017 11:01 am ET
JIM WATSON via Getty Images

The United States Supreme Court is gearing up to hear a landmark case on partisan gerrymandering, and the future of our democracy hangs in the balance. Every American should care about the upcoming case titled Gill vs. Whitford. It challenges the common practice of politicians carving up of congressional districts to gain partisan advantage, rather than ensure fair representation and competition. This practice of partisan gerrymandering is corruption – plain and simple. It undermines American voters across the political spectrum. It is an abuse of power designed to skew election results as it compromises the integrity of our democracy.

Unlike so many political issues these days, efforts to end this kind of gerrymandering is not a partisan battle. Both major parties engage in partisan gerrymandering to rig the system in their favor. There are many states that disproportionately skew to Republicans, like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio. And while the GOP is beating Democrats in this game, there are states that skew to Democrats, like Massachusetts, Maryland, and Illinois.

The Supreme Court has defined partisan gerrymandering as “the drawing of legislative district lines to subordinate adherents of one political party and entrench a rival party in power.” Put more simply, it’s politicians picking their voters, instead of voters picking their politicians.

That might have seemed acceptable if you were a Democrat in Massachusetts in 2012, when every single House representative from Massachusetts was a Democrat. Or if you were a Republican in Pennsylvania that same year, when Republican candidates won only 49 percent of the statewide congressional vote, yet 72 percent of Pennsylvania’s congressional seats.

But consider the majority of voters in Pennsylvania who had their votes undermined, disrespected, and effectively rendered meaningless. Their fundamental American right to participate in democracy was thrown out so that one party could maintain power. Gerrymandering makes Democratic majorities in both the Senate and House unlikely, despite President Trump’s abysmal popularity.

It does not matter which political party you belong to, or whether you’re an independent, or what other issues you care about. Partisan gerrymandering is wrong. It is unfair to voters and an insult to the values on which this country was founded. The framers of the Constitution sought to prevent this kind of corruption. In his essay A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, John Adams warned that “corruption in elections is the greatest enemy of freedom.” His concerns are reflected in the constitution, but nevertheless, there remain loopholes that have allowed corruption to seep through the cracks, corroding our democracy from the inside and creating deep distrust of government.

In their 2006 League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Perry decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that partisan gerrymandering can be “an abuse of power that, at its core, evinces a fundamental distrust of voters, serving the self interest of the political parties at the expense of the public good.” Gill v. Whitford has the potential to end partisan gerrymandering and restore power to the voters. In the coming weeks, public interest groups, citizens and politicians will be weighing in to demand that the Supreme Court side with the American people, and not partisan operatives.

Represent.Us, the nonpartisan reform organization that I lead, is filing a brief with the Supreme Court, and making a post-partisan case for voters who feel locked out of the political process in red states and blue states alike. We need the Supreme Court to hear this loud and clear: everyday Americans across the political spectrum demand an end to this corrupt practice. It’s time to get our democracy back.

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