Schwarzenegger, McCain, Historians, Political Scientists: Supreme Court Must Strike Down Extreme Maps

September 6, 2017

In an overwhelming show of support for one side in a major U.S. Supreme Court case, dozens of current and former Republican and Democratic politicians, constitutional scholars, leading academics, historians, civil rights organizations, and good government groups filed amicus briefs yesterday in Gill v. Whitford urging the Court to finally draw a clear line indicating that some gerrymanders are so extreme and harmful to American democracy as to be unconstitutional.

Among the groups who filed briefs:

  • Political Leaders: Briefs from 77 current and former members of Congress, including John McCain, Bob Dole, and Nancy Pelosi; state-wide elected officials, including John Kasich and Arnold Schwarzenegger; and 65 current and former state legislators, tell the Court that halting extreme gerrymandering is an urgent bipartisan issue, and explain its harmful effects on American democracy;
     
  • Leading Historians: 15 historians, including Pulitzer Prize-winner Jack Rakove, explain why extreme gerrymandering is antithetical to American constitutional values, and show that the Framers and subsequent leaders consistently decried and sought a solution for partisan gerrymandering;
     
  • Social and Political Scientists: Nearly 20 prominent political and social scientists explain that new statistical and technological tools make extreme partisan gerrymanders more pernicious, more durable, and more appealing to partisan map-drawers than ever before;
     
  • Good-Government and Civil Rights Groups: Nearly 20 filed briefs, including the Brennan Center, which makes the case that extreme gerrymandering is a serious, but manageable problem – isolated mainly in a few key states, and easily identifiable – and therefore can be fixed.  

View an updated list of the briefs filed here, and learn more about Gill v. Whitford here.  

Whitford, the most important case in decades dealing with how Americans are represented in Congress and state legislatures, focuses on a Wisconsin legislative map drawn in 2011 by the state’s Republican leadership to give their party a significant, enduring partisan advantage – effectively, to keep their party in power regardless of the will of the voters. The case will decide whether the Wisconsin map and other extreme gerrymanders are legal, or must be re-drawn.

A decision by the Court against Wisconsin could have enormous implications – stemming the tide of extreme gerrymanders enabled by increasingly sophisticated mapping technology and access to new voter data ahead of 2021’s redistricting.

“The Wisconsin case gives the Court the chance to once and for all end a type of pernicious gerrymandering that, though it doesn’t happen everywhere, is especially harmful because it undermines the representation and accountability that are at the heart of our democracy,” said Michael Li, Brennan Center senior counsel. “The extreme gerrymanders of this decade are some of the most cynical we’ve seen in a long time, and if the Court doesn’t act, there’s every indication that ‘Big Data’ and technology are about to make things even worse.”

“It is remarkable to see such overwhelming, bipartisan alignment on one side of a case involving fundamental democracy issues,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “This attests to the tremendous opportunity the Court has to end a growing, but fixable problem – the proliferation of extreme gerrymanders that disenfranchise voters. There is real reason for optimism that the Court will finally address this problem ahead of 2021’s redistricting.”

Campaign Legal Center, the Brennan Center, and Common Cause will host a press briefing call, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Center’s Michael Li, and other experts, TODAY at 1 pm EDT. Reporters are encouraged to attend, and should call 1 (866) 866-1333 and ask for the Whitford call.

Read about the amicus briefs from the Brennan Center, elected officials, scholars, and more.

Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on Redistricting, and about Gill v. Whitford.

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

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