High court is urged to leave redistricting to Congress
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in two partisan gerrymandering cases that could scramble congressional districts and change the way states redraw maps after the 2020 census, marking the second consecutive year the justices will consider the issue.
In a sign of how much could change if the justices decide states can’t use the maps to entrench an advantage for their political party, the North Carolina and Maryland lawmakers who benefited from that process urged the Supreme Court to stay out of it and leave any overhaul of the redistricting process to Congress.
The nine Republican members of the Tar Heel State’s delegation – elected under a congressional map that state GOP officials said was drawn with the intent to keep a 10-3 advantage for their party – filed a brief at the high court arguing that state and federal lawmakers should rein in just that kind of line drawing.
What appeared to be a Republican win last year in the 9th District remains undecided because of allegations of election fraud.
And Democratic Rep. David Trone, who represents Maryland’s 6th District, which state officials redrew and increased the Democratic advantage in the congressional delegation from 6-2 to 7-1, said the politically preferable check on excessively partisan congressional maps is nationwide legislation. He is a co-sponsor of the House bill to do so.
“That bill, if it passes, would have a political legitimacy that cannot and should not come from this Court, which can only mire itself in partisanship by constitutionalizing standards for partisan gerrymandering and then refereeing the innumerable challenges that will ensue,” Trone wrote in a brief to the justices.
That argument could strike a chord with the Supreme Court, and particularly Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who expressed during oral arguments last term his concern about the Supreme Court stepping into the inherently political redistricting process to pick winners and losers in elections.
But the challengers say the way both states drew maps with the express policy to benefit one party gives the Supreme Court a way to allow such lawsuits.
The oral arguments today will give the first insights into the justices’ thinking on the issue now.