Law360, Expert Analysis: Stop Gerrymandering Before It Stops Democracy


Paul Smith, Vice President of the Campaign Legal Center, wrote an Op-Ed for Law360 on the importance of the 17th Amendment as a bulwark against partisan gerrymandering.


The U.S. Senate is a gerrymandering-free zone, where politicians are all elected from entire states and their success thus does not depend on cleverly drawn district lines. But an increasing number of politicians and groups are advocating for a change.

These proposals may fail in the short run, but the broader threat they represent will exist as long as there are powerful actors who benefit from gerrymandering and thus have an incentive to capitalize on it. The only permanent way to mitigate this danger is to clamp down on partisan gerrymandering itself. 

Fortunately, the Supreme Court now has an opportunity to do precisely that.

As the legal scholar John Hart Ely famously wrote, the principal job of judges in reviewing legislative acts under the Constitution should be “unblocking stoppages in the democratic process.” The court should unblock the path to fair maps, before gerrymandering stops up the rest of our democracy.

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