OK, Supreme Court, So What Kind of ‘Racial Gerrymander’ Is Permissible, Then? Hmm?
The Supreme Court has become a haven for conservative bias
As the country approaches the 2018 midterms, gerrymandering has become the focal point for a lot of voting rights groups trying to fight rigged district maps designed to suppress Democratic voters, those primarily being minorities. While these organizations have seen some victories in places like Maryland, there have also been plenty of losses in states like North Carolina, Wisconsin, and now recently Texas.
Called Abbot v. Perez, the case has a long history, but to sum it up Texas gained four congressional seats as a result of an influx of minority citizens during the 2010 census. Because of this, various new maps were drawn up by the state district court based on complaints from both voting rights advocates and the state, with the situation only becoming tougher following the federal Supreme Court ruling of Shelby County v. Holder, which destroyed the need for new state voter laws to be reviewed by federal officials.
Related: Huge Victory For Dems in Key Battleground State as Court Rules GOP Gerrymandering Unconstitutional
Despite this, the Texas District Court ruled in August of last year that the finalized maps violated the Voting Rights Act, meaning the state had to redraw them. Not giving up, the state, led primarily by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, appealed to the conservative Supreme Court, which put a freeze on the district court’s decision in September 2017.
Fast forward to Monday, and the court has officially made its decision. In one of those close 5-4 rulings, the justices determined that only one of the districts had “permissible” racial gerrymandering, presenting a strong blow to voting rights advocates both in Texas and red states nationwide.
Writing the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito claimed that the district court had acted wrongly:
“We now hold that the three-judge court committed a fundamental legal error. It was the challengers’ burden to show that the 2013 Legislature acted with discriminatory intent when it enacted plans that the court itself had produced. The 2013 Legislature was not obligated to show that it had “cured” the unlawful intent that the court attributed to the 2011 Legislature. Thus, the essential pillar of the three-judge court’s reasoning was critically flawed.
“When the congressional and state legislative districts are reviewed under the proper legal standards, all but one of them, we conclude, are lawful.”
Justice Sotomayor wrote, in a dissenting opinion that this case “comes at serious costs to our democracy.” The worst part is that she is absolutely right.
While gerrymandering has always been a painful issue in the United States, it has become even worse this decade due to a couple of infamous developments, the first being the Republican project REDMAP (Redistricting Majority Project). And if there was any doubt that the REDMAP project was designed to cement a Republican advantage in the outdated Electoral College, just look at the name. RED MAP. It doesn’t get much more blatant than that. And, sure enough, it saw the GOP take advantage of the 2010 census to implement a mass redrawing of voting districts in swing states for the purposes of partisan gerrymandering, and the second of course being the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.
All of which leaves us to ask the question… OK, Supreme Court, So what kind of ‘racial gerrymander’ Is permissible, then? Hmm?
The 2018 midterms will be tough, but that does not mean all is lost for Democrats. Starting/continuing strong grassroots movements in local and state districts, as well as having Democrats run on universally popular progressive issues like Medicare-for-all will be the key, for Democrats, to winning Congress this year.
Featured image by Franz Jantzen/Wikimedia Commons
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