Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Supreme Court just made it easier to get away with gerrymandering

Ian Millhiser
Justice Editor, ThinkProgress. Author of Injustices: SCOTUS’ History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted
Jun 5

If you can’t fix the problem quickly, it’s not fixed.

The Supreme Court handed down a brief order on Monday affirming a lower court’s ruling that North Carolina’s state legislative maps were an illegal racial gerrymander.

That sounds like good news for advocates who oppose the maps drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature?—?but the decision could actually encourage state lawmakers to attempt more gerrymandered maps in the future.

That’s because the most lasting effect of the Court’s decision in North Carolina v. Covington is likely to stem from a brief opinion vacating a lower court order that called for an unusual remedy to fix this gerrymander.

The lower court did not simply strike down the state’s legislative maps. It also ordered the state to draw new maps and hold a special election in 2017 to replace lawmakers elected under the illegal gerrymander.

It was an atypical order, but also a way of mitigating a recurrent problem in gerrymandering cases. The maps at issue in this case were drawn in 2011. The lower court order striking them down did not come until 2016. It’s now halfway through 2017, and the Supreme Court just got around to affirming that order. In the meantime, the state ran three elections under illegal maps.

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