High court’s sidestep of gerrymandering only allows for worse partisan redistricting

Taking no answer for an answer might be worse than a simple no.

About a year ago, we were encouraged when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that would decide if partisan gerrymandering violated the Constitution.

That case was an appeal of a decision that struck down the legislative map drawn after Republicans won control of Wisconsin’s government in 2010.

In March, the court agreed to hear a second case challenging a district reshaped by Democrats in Maryland. Another case from North Carolina also advanced to the court this year.

But then last month, the court sidestepped a decision altogether by referring all these cases back to lower courts for reconsideration, clarification or further detail.

Political leanings have always defined our nation, but today’s hyper-partisan politics have created an almost aberrant democracy. And the cause of much of that aberration — the deadlock and political hostility — appears to be gerrymandering.

Since that term first appeared in 1812, lawmakers have honed the practice of redrawing political boundaries down to a science — a science that favors their party. In an age of computer-assisted redistricting that refines an inherently political process even further, things are just going to get worse.

We were not shocked by our Legislature’s failure to advance proposals this year to create an independent commission to redraw congressional and legislative districts.

What began as bipartisan efforts to prepare for redistricting following the 2020 census were soon ensnared in politics.

However, we were taken aback by the high court’s failure to address partisan gerrymandering and arrive at a standard to decide when politicians go too far.

The court has never imposed limits on drawing partisan legislative districts, though it has struck down districts based on racial gerrymanders. Yet, many thought the time was ripe for finally determining when using politics to draw districts that benefit one party could at least be limited.

We certainly have not devised such a framework or reached a consensus for how to address gerrymandering.

However, our position starts from a simple premise: Take the politics out of redistricting as much as possible to ensure fair elections.

No, we don’t see the Supreme Court acting as cops on the beat judging dozens of such political decisions regularly.

But that appears to be what is happening in the absence of a practical remedy to gerrymandering. When the U.S. Supreme Court will finally strike down gerrymandering as unconstitutional is anyone’s guess, but it won’t be this year.

Maybe the question now is can voters, despite our lawmakers’ worst political instincts, still elect a more balanced government.

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