Experts predict new SCOTUS majority will take on extreme gerrymandering

Talking Points Memo

The Supreme Court is slated to hear two blockbuster cases involving extreme partisan gerrymandering this spring—the last best chance for the nation’s highest court to take action on this pivotal issue before the 2020 census and once-a-decade redistricting process the following year.

With swing vote Anthony Kennedy retired from the bench and Justice Brett Kavanaugh cementing the court’s 5-4 conservative majority, there’s a legitimate fear that their ruling may not institute a fairer system.

After all, the Supreme Court has ruled that racial gerrymandering can violate the Constitution, but never before struck down a voting map as unconstitutionally gerrymandered on partisan lines. Last year, the Supreme Court kicked two related cases back to the lower courts.

But legal redistricting experts surveyed by TPM see cause for hope. The pending cases — Lamone v. Benisek out of Maryland and Rucho v. Common Cause out of North Carolina — involve such egregious, intentional partisan power grabs, committed by Democratic and Republican lawmakers, respectively, that the constitutional questions at hand are clear-cut. Experts also predict that the justices will want to impose some limits to stem the flow of cases to their docket involving this highly sensitive political issue.


Paul Smith of the Campaign Legal Center, which is representing other plaintiffs in the North Carolina case, agreed that the scheduling maneuvering was an “optimistic sign.”

Moving up the schedule allows the justices additional time to write their opinions, Smith said, suggesting, to him, “that there is at least some interest in doing something substantive here rather than just batting their hand at us.”

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