SCOTUS Blocks Census Citizenship Question, but Rules Political Gerrymandering Constitutional
On the last day of its term, the nation’s highest court churned out two major rulings: One concerning the U.S. Census, the other, the future of gerrymandering.
Let’s start with gerrymandering—that is, when a political party shapes the boundaries of an electorate so it favors them—which the Supremes already ruled could not be done on the basis of race. The question before them was whether political gerrymandering, that is, gaming political maps so they disproportionately benefited their parties—was just as unconstitutional.
In a decision splitting the court between its five-judge conservative majority and its liberal wing, SCOTUS ruled that political gerrymandering was permissible, and that federal courts had no business interfering in the will of state legislatures on this matter.
On its face, the decision might seem like one of those “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” situations. After all, this ruling would apply equally to states run by Democrats as it would states where the GOP holds all the power.
But therein lies the rub: Republicans have control over FAR MORE states than Democrats do. CNN, citing the National Conference of State Legislatures, reports that Republicans control more than 30 of 49 partisan legislatures in the country (Nebraska, apparently, does some other shit). Of that 30, 22 also have a Republican governor.
So yeah, hope everyone in Alabama, Ohio, Florida, and Georgia enjoys having a Republican-controlled government forever-ever.
The NAACP had some thoughts about this decision, which they shared in a press release:
“Exercise of the franchise, which many fought and even died for, must not be reduced to a political charade in which the outcomes are predetermined,” wrote NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “In America, voters should choose their representatives instead of representatives choosing their voters.”
He added, “This is a dereliction of duty in protecting our democracy.”
The Times, citing government experts, reports that if a citizenship question were included, it could spook immigrants from filling out the census—and about 6.5 million people could be undercounted.
“That could reduce Democratic representation when congressional districts are allocated in 2021 and affect how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending are distributed,” the paper writes.
In effect, the Supreme Court allowed a pathway today for a fairer census. Free and fair elections? Not so much.