Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Benisek v. Lamone, a case where Republican voters are suing Maryland over the way that Maryland’s 6th Congressional District was redrawn in 2011. The Los Angeles Times reports that many of the justices seemed to be concerned about how the district lines could not have been redrawn without partisan gerrymandering. This can be seen with district lines that were redrawn to shift a predominately Republican district to Democrat favored one.
Justice Kennedy, who once again seems to be a deciding vote in how the court would rule, asked how the newly drawn districts differ from the state passing a law which stated that the majority party would get more seats than the minority party. However, there seemed to be no consensus as to what standard states should use when drawing districts. Justice Breyer asked, “It seems like a pretty clear violation of the Constitution in some form to have deliberate, extreme gerrymandering. The Court said things like that, but is there a practical remedy that won’t get judges involved in every, or dozens and dozens and dozens of very important political decisions?” This question could not be answered directly by the plaintiffs.
From the oral testimony today, this case may seem to be an outlier and the court may simply rule on this case of extreme partisan gerrymandering, while failing to establish clear standards for future partisan gerrymandering challenges. This can easily be seen by Former Governor Martin O’Malley’s deposition testimony that he had a duty to help Democrats win.
Should the Court come up with a clear standard for how states should draw its districts, it needs to be one that does not require court intervention in the process. The courts should not be able to take power away from the state and make political decisions exclusively reserved to the states.