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The Charlotte Observer: Will Supreme Court end gerrymandering?

January 11, 2019

When North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders have seen their work struck down in court as unconstitutional — as they have many times — they have frequently responded by attacking the judge or judges as partisan hacks.

That approach won’t work if the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court surprises the nation by throwing out the congressional district map that N.C. legislators explicitly drew to elect as many Republicans as possible.

The court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge to the North Carolina map, as well as one to a Maryland congressional district. That was big news, because while the court has addressed racial gerrymandering, it has never ruled on whether partisan gerrymandering can be unconstitutional. In taking these cases, the court could for the first time establish whether crafting districts to help one party over the other is permissible.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to be optimistic about the Supreme Court’s view of the N.C. case (which is called Rucho vs. Common Cause). The conservative justices are not inclined to think the courts should meddle in states’ political affairs. When the moderate Kennedy was on the court, there was a chance he could side with the court’s four liberals. His replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, has not ruled on partisan gerrymandering cases before, but there’s little reason to think he would break with his fellow conservatives in this case. Given his clear partisan leanings revealed in his confirmation hearings, it’s almost certain he won’t.

The court, which will hear arguments in March and likely rule by June, will decide only if partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. It will not rule on whether it’s a wise practice that benefits this country. Clearly it’s not and it doesn’t.

— The Charlotte Observer

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