Partisan Gerrymandering

Since the nation's founding, politicians have intentionally manipulated the boundaries of election districts to stifle their political opponents’ power and keep themselves in office. And for just as long, these manipulations have met with criticism for being anti-democratic and unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the harms of partisan gerrymandering, but has never effectively outlawed it. Without strong laws against gerrymandering, the problem has gotten worse. This decade, politicians equipped with reams of voter data, fast computers, and precision redistricting tools have created a new breed of extreme partisan gerrymanders that have locked in majorities—or even supermajorities—for one party, regardless of how voters actually vote. These new, extreme maps have given rise to legislatures that do not represent the diverse interests of voters and do not respond to changing opinion.

Fortunately, the tide is shifting. In the past year and a half, courts across the country have struck down maps as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. And, in striking these maps down, the courts have set out reasonable, easy-to-apply standards for policing abuses of our redistricting processes. The cases challenging gerrymandered maps have now reached the Supreme Court, with two cases—one from Wisconsin (Gill v. Whitford) and one from Maryland (Benisek v. Lamone)—asking the Justices to weigh in on the constitutionality of extreme maps. With the end of the Court’s term in June rapidly approaching, all eyes are on the Justices, who could issue opinions that could check gerrymandering’s worst excesses.

A calendar of upcoming deadlines and hearings in key redistricting cases including partisan gerrymandering cases in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, Maryland, and Pennsylvania and racial gerrymandering cases in North Carolina and Virginia.

Pleadings in key redistricting cases before the courts in Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Since 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized partisan gerrymandering as an issue within the courts' purview to decide. But in the three decades since, the Justices have been unable to agree on a manageable standard for evaluating those claims. Summaries and documents from the major Supreme Court decisions that led to this point are available here.