Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) solidified its reputation as a partisan body in its Rucho v. Common Cause decision.
In the decision, SCOTUS said that federal courts have no jurisdiction over partisan redistricting and could not overturn extreme gerrymanders (a term describing extreme district drawing that is done with the purpose of minimizing the vote share of certain subgroups of people).
This not only solidifies partisan gerrymanders that have already passed, such as in Wisconsin, but will also open the floodgates to new extreme gerrymanders in more states.
The most fundamental argument against gerrymandering is that voters should be able to choose their legislators and not the other way around. Especially with all the advanced voting histories and trends that we now have access to, allowing politicians to redraw district lines based on which households vote for whom allows them to craft a permanent majority and buttresses themselves against public sentiment.
For example, in the Wisconsin 2018 Assembly races, Democrats won 53% of the statewide vote yet claimed just 36% of the Assembly seats. That is not democracy.
The simplest standard we could introduce is that if one party receives a majority of votes, they should stand a reasonable chance of winning a majority of seats. To subvert this, and to craft district lines such that one party can remain in power no matter which way public opinion sways, is a subversion of democracy itself.
In the past, courts have struck down racial gerrymanders as unconstitutionally depriving minority groups of their rights. Now, I worry that states will sidestep courts by simply claiming that it is a partisan gerrymander instead of a racial one.
The SCOTUS decision in Rucho v. Common Cause was anti-democratic and will have repercussions for decades. It opens the door for long term minority rule, which would allow a smaller group of legislators to ignore the true will of voters. This march towards anti-democratic rule is not in line with the American democracy that we teach in schools. We must do better, and we need to ensure that the true will of the majority of our country’s citizens is heard.
To do that, we must end partisan gerrymandering and institute non-partisan district drawing.
Hebl, of Sun Prairie, is Sun Prairie’s representative in the Wisconsin State Assembly. To reach Hebl, call 608-266-7678 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.