Supreme Court Punts Gerrymandering to Next Term

June 18, 2018

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in two long-anticipated cases – Gill v. Whitford, dealing with a Republican gerrymander in Wisconsin, and Benisek v. Lamone, dealing with a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland. The Court issued no ruling on the merits in either case, setting up the chance for a major decision in a North Carolina gerrymandering case next term, while keeping the Wisconsin and Maryland challenges alive.

“The Court had abundant evidence that extreme gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Maryland is toxic for democracy,” said Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “But while it’s disappointing to see the Court punt, the decisions aren’t losses. Both cases go on, and the Justices will have the chance to finally say something about when gerrymandering is illegal next term, in a case out of North Carolina with overwhelming evidence of how gerrymandering quashes voters’ voices. Until then, Americans should redouble their efforts to fix the redistricting process before the next national redistricting in 2021 – ensuring states draw fair maps that give voters a choice.”

The two cases had seen a flood of briefs from Republican and Democratic lawmakers arguing gerrymandering harms voters and American governance, including Gov. John Kasich, Sen. John McCain, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. State legislators, political scientists, historians, and others also urged the court to declare extreme gerrymandering is illegal.

The Brennan Center has documented the effect of extreme gerrymandering on the U.S. Congress. In Extreme Maps we found that it gives Republicans an advantage of 16-17 seats in the current U.S. House; in Extreme Gerrymandering & the 2018 Midterm we found that Democrats may need to win the national popular vote by more than a ten-point margin to take back control of the House.

Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on Redistricting.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292-8381 or naren.daniel@nyu.edu