Federal judges can not block gerrymandering

28 Juin, 2019, 19:27 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • The Supreme Court is seen under stormy skies in Washington earlier in June

Earlier this week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit sent the case back to the Maryland district court in order to evaluate the new claim.

In one ruling, a majority of justices said federal courts can not block voting maps drawn by the state lawmakers to benefit their own political party. The process is known as gerrymandering.

"Seems totally ridiculous that our government, and indeed Country, can not ask a basic question of Citizenship in a very expensive, detailed and important Census, in this case for 2020", he wrote.

In a ruling on Thursday tied to the practice of partisan gerrymandering, the Supreme Court - as it's charged to do - weighed in on the perceived intent of the Founding Fathers, the wording of the United States Constitution and lower court findings on the matter. The court's conservative majority says the issue is a political dispute, not a legal one. Together, they were a reminder that gerrymandering is a bi-partisan scourge on voters, an affliction perpetrated by the powerful wanting to keep power, regardless of political party.

The court rejected challenges to two congressional voting maps. The other was drawn by Democrats in Maryland. Voting there typically is evenly split, but the gerrymandered congressional districts produced 10 Republican and 3 Democratic House members.

Later he acknowledged that he had discussed the issue with immigration hawks including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was on the president's disbanded voter-fraud commission, and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, before pressing the Justice Department on the question.

Progressives launched the litigation campaign for a federal ruling on partisan gerrymandering at a time when it seemed that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency in 2016, ensuring a sympathetic majority on the Supreme Court thereafter.

Justice Elena Kagan disagreed with the ruling. "Kagan said that, "for the first time ever, this court refuses to" fix a constitutional violation because it thinks doing so is not part of its job".

"Around the country, machine politicians must be thinking they've got a free hand to draw maps even worse than the ones last round".

Whether the citizenship question returns to the courts or not, several scholars noted the significance of the Supreme Court's pointed rebuke of the Trump administration. "Instead, they are opening the door for more of it, including by the Utah State Legislature".

The decision effectively reverses the outcome of rulings in Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and OH, where courts had ordered new maps drawn and ends proceedings in Wisconsin.

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"Partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts", Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

The Supreme Court has effectively blocked the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, arguing that the government's reasoning for the proposal was inadequately explained.

Warren took time from a visit to a Florida migrant detention camp to post a Twitter thread calling the ruling a "welcome relief" but noting that it may still be possible for the Trump administration to add the question.

Justice Clarence Thomas, however, said including the citizenship question was within the Commerce Department's authority.

While the constitution permits the Department of Commerce to "inquire about citizenship on the census questionnaire", Roberts wrote, "if judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case".

Disputed congressional maps in North Carolina and Maryland can't be declared unconstitutional for political reasons, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, a decision that could have a sweeping effect for states like OH and MI where officials remain at odds over whether updated district designs are too partisan.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wants to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Roberts also said that the Department of Justice wasn't interested in the citizenship data until contacted by the Commerce Department.

Democrats have complained that asking USA residents if they are citizens will discourage illegal immigrants and other non-Americans from participating, resulting in a less accurate head-count.

Plaintiffs in both cases won in lower courts, prompting the states to appeal to the Supreme Court.

After arguments before the high court, opponents of the question informed the court they had obtained "new evidence" that the decision was politically motivated. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.



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