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Why is Gerrymandering still a problem in US Elections?


Recently, Janet Protasiewicz was elected to be the next Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice. The election concerned several publicized issues including gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is a topic repeated many times in U.S. politics as many attempts were made to address voting districts drawn in a manner that ultimately favors one party’s success in elections. State legislatures and even the U.S. Supreme Court addressed this several times. However, this issue has yet to cease. The continuance is primarily due to a lack of guidelines to establish the boundaries of voting districts.

The U.S. Constitution states that “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations” in the Elections Clause. In essence, state governments and Congress can create the guidelines to conduct congressional elections as long as they comply with the Constitution. However, no law or court ruling so far states gerrymandering is entirely illegal.

In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Rucho v. Common Cause that federal courts can’t address “partisan gerrymandering” because of its “present political questions.” This is because they only review cases involving federal and constitutional law instead of political inquiries unrelated to any federal law. "Although, the Supreme Court ruled that racial gerrymandering (gerrymandering to make a district solely have a majority of voters of the same ethnic race) can violate the Constitution

in Shaw v. Reno. It also provided more general rules for creating voting districts in past cases. Baker v. Carr declared that “legislative apportionment” can be reviewed by the federal judiciary system under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment making everyone have equal protection under the law. It led to Reynolds v. Sims requiring each state legislative district to have a nearly equal population. This principle was then also applied to congressional districts in Wesberry v. Sanders. In Davis v. Bandemer, the court considered political gerrymandering unconstitutional if it “is arranged in a manner that will consistently degrade a voter’s or a group of voters’ influence in the political process as a whole.” So, there isn’t much legal ground federally to contest gerrymandering.

When it comes to states establishing the districts, 38 of them “have primary control over the congressional lines in their state” with the rest go through “an independent commission.” Plenty of states have regulations creating the districts, but they don’t always effectively counter gerrymandering. For instance, there is the pending Supreme Court case Moore v. Harper to rule on if “the state legislative body, independent of any constraints by state courts or other laws, have sole authority to regulate federal elections.” This resulted after the North Carolina Supreme Court rejected the legislative’s district map for “violating the state constitution’s ‘free elections clause’ and other provisions.” Therefore, efforts to address gerrymandering are dependent on creating stricter requirements by passing laws or starting judicial proceedings.


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