The five conservative justices ruled that federal courts cannot strike down congressional districts for being extremely partisan.
The conservative justices on the Supreme Court just gave state legislatures license to disenfranchise voters by drawing extremely partisan House districts that dilute one party's power.
In a 5-4 decision along ideological lines, the conservative justices ruled that "partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts."
The ruling essentially gives state legislatures — which have the power to draw congressional districts every 10 years based on Census data — free reign to draw seriously skewed districts that pack voters of the opposing party into as few seats as possible.
Such was the case in North Carolina, whose Republican-controlled legislature purposefully drew districts to pack Democrats into as few seats as possible, despite the fact that North Carolina is a purple state. Good government groups sued to overturn the maps, but the Supreme Court ruled that the extreme Republican gerrymander in the state could stand.
The Supreme Court did say that Congress or states could pass laws limiting partisan gerrymandering. However the ruling said that the federal courts should play no role in adjudicating charges of extreme partisan gerrymandering.
"Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "But the fact that such gerrymandering is 'incompatible with democratic principles,' ... does not mean that the solution lies with the federal judiciary. We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. 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."
Given that gerrymandering will again become an issue after 2020, when new districts will be ordered by the decennial Census, control of state legislatures in the 2020 election is especially important.
If Republicans win control of state legislatures in as big of numbers as they did in 2010, then Republicans will again have free reign to disenfranchise Democratic voters in new maps that will last another 10 years.
Thursday's Supreme Court decision solidifies the fact that all elections matter, not just the presidential contest.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.