Democracy 21 Joins Supreme Court Amicus Brief Supporting Lower Court Decision Holding Partisan Gerrymandering Unconstitutional

Democracy 21 joined with other non-profit organizations today on an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court, urging the Court to uphold a lower court decision that partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin violated the Constitution. (See here for other groups joining the brief.)

The amicus brief was written for the nonprofit groups by David Leit and other attorneys at the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler LLP in Roseland, New Jersey.

The brief was filed in the case of Gill v. Whitford.

The Supreme Court is reviewing the decision in the case by a three-judge district court in Wisconsin that struck down a Wisconsin state legislative redistricting plan as unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. The lower court found that the Wisconsin plan was intended to dilute the voting strength of Democratic voters in the state, and had that effect.

Previously, the Supreme Court has indicated that partisan gerrymandering can violate the Constitution, but the Court has never agreed on a “judicially manageable” standard to determine when a plan is unconstitutional. The district court decision in Gill adopted a standard proposed by the challengers to the Wisconsin plan, and the Supreme Court is set to review that decision.

“The Gill case is of enormous consequence to voters. Partisan gerrymandering is denying competitive elections and fair representation to millions of Americans,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer.

“Until now, the Supreme Court has created a Catch-22 version of partisan gerrymandering,” Wertheimer said. “The Court has held that partisan gerrymandering can be unconstitutional, but has never agreed on a standard to determine what partisan gerrymandering is, and has never found a partisan redistricting plan to be in violation of the Constitution.”

“The Gill case provides the Supreme Court with the opportunity to end its Catch-22 approach to dealing with gerrymandering by establishing a judicial standard for determining when partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional,” Wertheimer said.

The amicus brief stresses the importance of fair redistricting to fundamental democratic values of representation and accountability.  The brief argues that partisan gerrymandering undermines a core principle embedded in the Constitution that “the people” have the right to choose their representatives and hold them accountable.

The brief argues that partisan gerrymandering violates these principles because it allows representatives of the party in power, which controls the redistricting process, to instead choose their voters – and in so doing, to entrench that party in power.

Quoting both Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, the brief notes that elected officials of both parties have called for an end to partisan gerrymandering.  The brief further notes that the public overwhelmingly opposes gerrymandering, citing public opinion polls.

The brief calls on the Court to end the practice of gerrymandering:

Severe partisan gerrymandering cannot be resolved by the democratic political process, because the very nature of the problem is that severe partisan gerrymanders subvert the democratic political process.  Without this Court’s intervention and the imposition of limits on severe partisan gerrymandering, our system will devolve into precisely what our Founders declared our independence from: government administered by an entrenched ruling class, rather than by consent of the people.

The full brief can be read here.

Attachments: (1 total)