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Today in SCOTUS: Where do we draw the line on partisan gerrymandering?

Today in SCOTUS: Where do we draw the line on partisan gerrymandering?
[Photo: Rusty Clark via Flickr]

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments today in Gill v. Whitford, a case originally brought by Wisconsin Democrats who argued that the voting maps in their state were drawn unconstitutionally to benefit Republicans, per NPR. In short, they are arguing that Republicans used partisan gerrymandering to their benefit. Gerrymandering is the process of using census data to draw voting district lines, which is meant to ensure that shifts in the population are properly represented in the House of Representatives. The problem arises when you realize that the politicians themselves are responsible for drawing the districts. This has led to partisan gerrymandering, where Republican or Democratic map drawers dilute their opponents’ votes by packing them into certain district.

Partisan gerrymandering is surprisingly legal within certain rules, and both Democrats and Republicans have taken advantage of that to their own benefit. As technology like mapping software, census data, and voting algorithms improves, it becomes even easier to draw voting district lines even more precisely, making it even easier to be extremely partisan. Now, the Supreme Court is looking at the constitutionality of extreme examples of this practice, and whether it denies citizens the equal protection of the law. The case could change the way state legislators draw district lines.

Gerrymandering is not the sexiest topic. Even John Oliver struggled to make it seem exciting when he covered it on Last Week Tonight, bringing out a Juggalo, a 47-year-old Quidditch player, a Scientologist, a unicyclist, a Parrothead, a Jill Stein supporter, an erotic pastry baker, and “everyone’s racist grandma” to try and excite viewers. After all, according to Oliver, “Election results should not be the results of politicians’ crazy lines,” he said. “They should be the result of our own crazy decisions.” Now, those “crazy lines” are in the hands of the justices of the Supreme Court.

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