Supreme Court Leaves the Door Open on Partisan Gerrymandering

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights is disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision in Gill v. Whitford today to dismiss the Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering case on procedural grounds and to send it back to the trial court to determine the harm caused to individual voters. The corrosive damage of Wisconsin’s gerrymandering to individual rights and to our democracy are the reasons our organization first filed this litigation in 2015.

While not the outcome we hoped for, today’s decision demonstrates clearly that the Supreme Court is concerned about the damage that extreme gerrymandering is doing to our democracy. And we have no doubt that individual plaintiffs will show real harm from the “packing” and “cracking” of their own districts. When politicians draw voting maps to favor one party over another and to stay in power, individual voters no longer have a meaningful voice in the political process.

As a civil rights organization, we are concerned that Wisconsin-style partisan gerrymandering is often a proxy for racial gerrymandering. Racially polarized voting still plagues our country and, in cities and states that are racially segregated, drawing district lines on a partisan basis inevitably impacts voters of color.

Extreme partisan gerrymandering is increasingly getting worse – damaging our democracy, diluting the power of communities of color by manipulating district maps, and eroding voters’ confidence in our system. As Justice Kagan wrote in her concurrence, “Partisan gerrymandering, as this Court has recognized, is ‘incompatible with democratic principles.’  More effectively every day, that practice enables politicians to entrench themselves in power against the people’s will.”

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee will continue working with our partners across Illinois to safeguard every citizen’s fundamental right to vote and have it count. Likewise, it is crucial that communities continue to pressure lawmakers to solve this problem in legislatures throughout the country by pushing for redistricting reform that will allow citizens, including communities of color, to elect candidates of their choice who represent and are held accountable to their interests.