With Battles in Multiple States, Fight to End Gerrymandering Heats Up
SCOTUS ruling in Virginia case seen as "yet another blow against GOP's use of racial gerrymandering to artificially inflate their power"
On the same day as the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major victory in a Virginia gerrymandering case, pro-democracy forces gathered at the North Carolina state capitol building for a day of action opposing the practice.
Wednesday's 7-1 decision (pdf) from the nation's high court "instructed a lower court to reconsider its finding that race was not the dominant factor in drawing 11 General Assembly districts, opening the door to a new political map that could reshape the Republican-controlled state legislature," the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Progress Virginia said the ruling was "a great victory for Virginia voters who want to have a real say in who represents them in Richmond," while the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee—which works to get Democrats elected at the state level—described it as "[y]et another blow against GOP's use of racial gerrymandering to artificially inflate their power."
If allowed to stand, the lower court's ruling "could have significantly bolstered future attempts to draw gerrymandered districts" nationwide, ThinkProgress justice editor Ian Millhiser wrote in his report.
The Virginia lawsuit was one of two redistricting cases the Supreme Court heard in December. The other, involving North Carolina congressional districts, remains undecided.
But North Carolinians aren't waiting passively for that ruling to come down. On Tuesday, state lawmakers filed a bill that backers say "would take politics out of the redistricting process."
Common Cause NC explained of the legislation: "Instead of lawmakers drawing their own districts for partisan advantage, a nonpartisan legislative staff would create congressional and legislative maps completely blind of any political consideration." The approach has widespread support from voters and advocacy groups alike.
— Susan Koontz (@SusanKoontz3) March 1, 2017
— Ginny Ghezzo (@GinnyGhezzo) March 1, 2017
— LWV North Carolina (@LWVNCarolina) March 1, 2017
— Scott Huler (@LawsonTrek) March 1, 2017
— Democracy NC (@democracync) March 1, 2017
— CommonCauseNC (@CommonCauseNC) March 1, 2017
South Carolina State Senator Nikki Setzler has also introduced legislation that would take responsibility for drawing district maps away from the General Assembly and give it to an independent commission. On Wednesday, the South Carolina Democratic party praised the Supreme Court's ruling in Virginia, but pointed to efforts like Setzler's as a more permanent solution:
— SCDP (@scdp) March 1, 2017
While gerrymandering might be considered wonky to some, the issue is gaining traction as constituents become more engaged in democracy nationwide. A meeting called last week by Fair Districts PA, in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, drew an audience of more than 600 people.
And just last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) listed the fight to end gerrymandering as a key goal of the resistance:
Our job: Fight back. Expand voter turnout. Overturn Citizens United. Fight gerrymandering. Create a vibrant democracy.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 20, 2017