Gerrymandering for ALL! And we are screwed!
April 28, 2004 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Veith v. Jubelirer affirmed by the US Supreme Court
In a 5-4 opinion, the US Supreme Court upheld that gerrymandered Congressional districts are legal and overruled Davis v. Bandemer. Full opinions available. For a background on why this is a structural constitutional problem and why we should be worried about it, read Gerrymandering - "The Great Contradiction".
posted by plemeljr (18 comments total)
Justice Scalia, joined by The Chief Justice, Justice O’Connor, and Justice Thomas concluded that political gerrymandering claims are nonjusticiable because no judicially discernible and manageable standards for adjudicating such claims exist.

Kennedy concurs, but adds in his own decision, "There are, then, weighty arguments for holding cases like these to be nonjusticiable. However, they are not so compelling that they require the Court now to bar all future partisan gerrymandering claims. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, makes clear that the more abstract standards that guide analysis of all Fourteenth Amendment claims suffice to assure justiciability of claims like these."

Basically, Scalia et al state that claims cannot appear before the court, and never should in the future. Kennedy concurs, but states that the door should not be closed for all time. Stevens, Souter joined by Ginsburg, and Breyer dissent.
posted by plemeljr at 11:18 AM on April 28, 2004

Actually, that should say, "nearly overruled Davis v. Bandemer" since Kennedy did not affirm that portion of the opinion.
posted by plemeljr at 11:22 AM on April 28, 2004

posted by Witty at 12:07 PM on April 28, 2004

Scary. Especially so because no one cares.
posted by cbrody at 12:39 PM on April 28, 2004

"(the President) shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law".

let's see:
the man who wins in November will probably appoint two (Stevens' getting old, Rehnquist too, O'Connor and Bader Ginsburg have had health problems) or even more Justices in the next four years
posted by matteo at 12:50 PM on April 28, 2004

Isn't O'Connor usually the swing judge?
posted by smackfu at 1:11 PM on April 28, 2004

Buy your handguns now.
posted by rocketman at 1:53 PM on April 28, 2004

Stevens will live forever. He's a rock star, in my book, and writes the best dissents since Holmes.
posted by PrinceValium at 2:14 PM on April 28, 2004

Good post, plemljr, thanks. I didn't know this was being decided, although I live in a state that has had much redistricting controversy. I'm going over to SCOTUS blog to look for more.
posted by crunchburger at 4:58 PM on April 28, 2004

I was in the court today when this was announced, and the normal stoicism of the other members was a bit lacking. Some looked quite annoyed indeed.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:03 PM on April 28, 2004

I wish they would just use county lines or zipcodes or something to determine election districts. Every state now has ridiculous districts, always drawn for political gain.
posted by amberglow at 8:11 PM on April 28, 2004

This is good, with images of especially contorted districts.
posted by amberglow at 8:17 PM on April 28, 2004

I wish they would just use county lines or zipcodes or something to determine election districts.

If they used counties, it would be impossible to have equal numbers of people in each district. And states can create, abolish, modify, and join together counties at will anyway, so it wouldn't be any deterrent to determined gerrymanderers. Ditto zipcodes, except that it would be the feds screwing with the lines.

Every state now has ridiculous districts, always drawn for political gain.

One of the problems is that it is impossible to come up with a set of district lines that doesn't give some people an advantage and others a disadvantage. Every set you can draw will be better or worse, for some group, than another set. There's no such thing as a neutral set of districts (or lack thereof).

You could get a set that was vaguely neutral in expectation if the districts were drawn using some heavily-random algorithm. But the districts you'd actually get any given time would still electorally advantage some people at the expense of others.

What might happen is that we might see Democratic-controlled states gerrymandering back until both sides, having punished each other for a few rounds, settle back into a more cooperative equilibrium.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:39 PM on April 28, 2004

This is a rogue Supreme Court. They're a mad elephant run amok.

(Great, disturbing post plemeljr)
posted by troutfishing at 10:11 PM on April 28, 2004

Coming soon to a theatre Supreme Court near you - "Your rights as a citizen exist only at the suffrage of the President - who can jail you at will for almost anything and then throw away the key, or ship you out of the country to be tortured !"
posted by troutfishing at 10:16 PM on April 28, 2004

Thank goodness for the Boundary Commission, I say. The American electoral system seems to be getting more like that Blackadder episode every day (shown seven years ago on Saturday, for all those who remember staying up for Portillo).
posted by riviera at 11:50 PM on April 28, 2004

This is madness...and bodes badly for the Texas situation as well. Damn.
posted by dejah420 at 9:03 AM on April 29, 2004

Statewide single transferable vote systems - what's so hard about that? Is there anything standing in the way? (I mean, besides maybe the Voting Rights Act... )
posted by skoosh at 12:48 PM on April 29, 2004

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