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SCOTUS: Just Give Us a Reason to Approve Your Imperfect Redistricting Plan

In a (barely) 11 page opinion the Supreme Court did what three lower court judges could not do in three separate opinions: agree 

In Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission the Supreme Court confirms that state and local governments don’t have to apportion legislative districts perfectly, but they do need a good reason for failing to doing so. But we knew that before. 

The Court held unanimously that Arizona’s redistricting plan, which had a total population deviation among districts of 8.8 percent, wasn’t unconstitutional. Those attacking the plan failed to show it is more probable than not that the deviation reflects illegitimate reapportionment considerations. Continue reading

 

Supreme Court to Decide Another “One-Person, One-Vote” Case

It takes only common sense to know that whoever is in charge of redistricting would prefer to gerrymander in their favor as much possible.

The irony of the Supreme Court agreeing to decide Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is inescapable. On June 29 in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission the Court held that Arizona’s redistricting commission could be solely responsible for congressional redistricting. In the first sentence of its opinion the Court noted Arizona voters adopted the commission to avoid partisan gerrymandering. The next day the Court agreed to decide Harris where the plaintiffs allege that Arizona’s redistricting commission engaged in partisan gerrymandering in state legislative redistricting that violated one-person, one-vote.  Continue reading

 

Supreme Court to Decide Another Redistricting Case

While the Supreme Court’s recent grant of certiorari in Evenwel v. Abbott asks one of the biggest questions about redistricting (who exactly is counted to determine one-person-one-vote), the question the Supreme Court will decide in Shapiro v. Mack is much more modest.

Federal law (the Three-Judge Act) requires three-judge panels to decide constitutional challenges to congressional and legislative redistricting. But the single judge to whom the request for a three-judge panel is made may determine that three judges are not required to decide the case.   Continue reading

 

Supreme Court to Decide Significant One-Person-One-Vote Case

The U.S. Constitution Equal Protection Clause’s “one-person one-vote” principle requires that voting districts have roughly the same population so that votes in each district count equally. But what population is relevant—total population or total voting population—and who gets to decide? The Supreme Court will decide these issues in Evenwel v. Abbott.

While this case involves a state legislature redistricting it is equally applicable to a local government drawing boundaries for a local election. While local governments may prefer to decide for themselves (rather than have the Supreme Court tell them) what population metric is appropriate, they may disagree about the better metric.

Continue reading

 

Supreme Court Sides with Minority Voters in Alabama Racial Gerrymander Case

In the only SCOTUS case of the term where the issue of race is front and center (other than high profile Fair Housing Act case) the Court sided with minority voters. Unsurprisingly, Justice Kennedy joined the majority opinion.

In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama the Supreme Court held 5-4 that when determining whether unconstitutional racial gerrymandering occurred—if race was a “predominant motivating factor” in creating districts—one-person-one-vote should be a background factor, not a factor balanced against the use of race.  And Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) does not require a covered jurisdiction to maintain a particular percent of minority voters in minority-majority districts.  The Court sent this case back to the lower court to reconsider in light of its opinion.  While this case involves state legislative redistricting, the legal standards at issue apply to redistricting at the local level as well.   Continue reading