Last week the U.S. Supreme Court rejected invitations to reinstate Republican designed redistricting maps in two states, siding in these instances with the courts of each state which have rejected those maps. The two cases arose out of Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
The U.S.Supreme Court has historically avoided striking down district maps on the ground of “partisan gerrymandering,” that is because they simply (even if outrageously) favor one party over the other. The Court has policed racial gerrymandering, but where it could not find a racial angle it has stayed out.
Given this fact, the task of policing overly blatant partisan gerrymanders has fallen to the state courts. Some of them, at least, have stepped up to it. This has been on net a win for the Democratic Party. In the North Carolina context, the state court approved map will likely allow the Democrats to gain one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives this November. In the Pennsylvania context, In Pennsylvania, the bottom line could be the same: Democrats have nine U.S. House members from Pennsylvania at present, and that number is likely to increase to ten with the new map, which the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review.
The Thing to Know:
Three Justices plainly disagreed with the majority and wanted to reconsider the state court lines. There may be further developments soon to come in the law of elections and the specific role of state legislatures (and state judges) there. But those will have to await the end of this election cycle.