Most politicians of both major parties love gerrymandering. “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly and politicians gotta gerrymander” seems to be their philosophy.

This past week, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court conceded that gerrymandering undermines the confidence that voters of both parties have in our democracy but, alas, they feel they are powerless to stop it.

Good luck, America. You are on your own here.

People who are not politicians, just concerned citizens, had hoped that the high court would use a case challenging the 2011 redrawing of Maryland’s 6th Congressional District to end this egregious practice.

That year, Democrats in control of the General Assembly and the State House redrew the congressional map to get rid of Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, and they succeeded.

Democrats have held the 6th District seat ever since. Republicans living in the district sued, charging they were disenfranchised, as they were.

But the court’s Republican-appointed majority decided 5-4 that the map drawn by Democrats to oust a Republican congressman will be allowed to stand.

Maryland Republicans are sacrificial lambs to the national party’s success in gerrymandering in so many other states, where GOP redistricting was even more brutal and more successful.

Look to North Carolina, where Democrats won more than half of the votes for Congress in 2018 but once again won only three of 13 House seats.

The Maryland case was one of two before the court. It and one from Wisconsin, which disenfranchised Democratic voters there, seemed to offer the court a chance to strike down partisan gerrymandering by both parties. The conservatives took a pass.

“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, though he conceded that “Excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust.”

So, we are faced with a practice that denies people their constitutional right to representation in government, but the court does not think it can do anything about it?

That’s especially hard to believe coming from a court that has been more than aggressive in such things as extending rights to corporations in free speech cases and to opponents of same-sex marriage in cases involving religious freedom, and limiting the role of unions in labor cases. Only this time, the justices throw up their hands and cry “We’re powerless!”

In a blistering dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote: “[F]or the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.”

Her opinion neatly summarizes our thinking, about the Maryland case and the whole issue:

“The partisan gerrymanders in these cases deprived citizens of the most fundamental of their constitutional rights: the rights to participate equally in the political process, to join with others to advance political beliefs, and to choose their political representatives. In so doing, the partisan gerrymanders here debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people. These gerrymanders enabled politicians to entrench themselves in office as against voters’ preferences. They promoted partisanship above respect for the popular will. They encouraged a politics of polarization and dysfunction. If left unchecked, gerrymanders like the ones here may irreparably damage our system of government.”

This is the very real danger to our democracy that the conservative majority seems perfectly fine with.

In our view, it’s cynicism at its worst.

(23) comments


Pardon typo. citizen's votes will increasingly be invalid.


On please, Gentlemen. Remember the Court in Bush v. Gore. Citrus votes meant nothing. And voting here will be disqualified ever after....


While I agree that it was a most egregious effort by democrats to redefine the 6th district, I do tend to agree with the SCOTUS decision. States rights demand that the state determine the shape of congressional districts. Reference the 10th Amendment.


Republicans are a minority party, destined to become even more so. The only way - the ONLY way - Republicans can win national office is by gaming the system and outright cheating. Democrats will need to get serious about strategies to fight the Republicans at the local level, from town to town.


Great job of projection there, buddy.

Comment deleted.

No, but we are a democratic republic.


Thank you Maryland Republicans.  You should have gotten your way, but the Trump SCOTUS was not going to give up that nationwide advantage they have.  Most political SCOTUS ever and they cannot make a "political decision.


Children know a way to make rules that are fair to both sides. For an example they say "You divide the cake. Then I get the choice of the first piece." It is not the real job of the Courts to make policy. That is the work of elected representatives. And Districts should be drawn by elected representatives. They need to set laws that will mean honest districts. The courts may have a role in keeping all parties honest. But they rightly say that the legislators need to make the rules. This decision was a good one. It would have been easier to let the Courts do the work. But not so democratic.


Yet the courts protect other disenfranchised voters. The ruling is not fair. All gerrymandering by any side must stop. Who has the moral fiber to stop it? Our democrats in Maryland have shown that they will not stop what is wrong unless (as they claim) others do, then they will too.


When one side is cheating with a 17 to 1 advantage, what would you do? Besides, Roscoe was about far right as you could go and even his Republican House of Representatives laughed about him...Still, the Republicans in the 6th District, before it was redrawn supported him. ..


You do what is right. If others are robbing banks and get away with it, will you start robbing banks? Bartlett was out there on some issues but at least he supported renewable energy sources. Let's not forget that before Roscoe, the democrats gerrymandered Connie Morella's district to boot her out and she certainly wasn't a right winger. I'm in the area that's been shifted both times.


My wife and I voted for Roscoe out of respect for his service and time as a teacher.


The Supreme Court has always said that any or all of their rulings can be changed by legislation. This is work for our representatives.


Our legislators have shown that they are unwilling to do the right thing. The Supreme Court through its various rulings, has basically said it's ok to disenfranchise voters as long as they are not in a federally recognized protected group. It is not one person one vote while the two parties in the majority power play games to ensure they maintain or gain advantage over the other through gerrymandering. Those of us in the band of Frederick county and MoCo have had our votes cast aside by those currently in power.


Go to confession and tell the priest you have sinned and ask to be forgiven, Gary. [smile]


Gary - don't you think they should have done exactly that by ruling that it is unconstitutional and forced that to happen. You say they should be drawn by elected officials but aren't those the same officials that have a vested interest in keeping their power.


All true. But the Court said it is up to our representative government to keep itself "honest." An out of control majorityis always a hazard. And I have no cure for that other than "to ride it out." A landslide election will always win. But at what cost?


Gary, I generally agree but respectfully take issue this time. I see two issues here. First, districts as drawn force a considerable disparity between the people and the people's representatives. Second, the peoples representatives directly benefit from this disparity. This conflict of interest is why the Supreme Court needs to step in and rule that people's representatives must have a strong correlation to the people the represent. Asking congress to do anything is a stretch today. Asking them to correct a system that cements them in power is just not realistic. The Supreme Court, who (in theory) do not benefit from this imbalance need to step up stop this practice. This important check and balance in our system and it has been thwarted.


Now I will consider this. Thanks!


Seems to me to be a violation of one-man-one-vote but Republicans have never had a problem violating law and precedent. They know their scotus schmotus friends will bail them out on every count.


Of course the conservative-majority SCOTUS ruled that they can't change it, because in most cases it is keeping their party in control. But I'm willing to bet that if more Democratically controlled states followed Maryland's course and redrew districts to benefit themselves, they'd have no problem reversing their decision. Classic case of party over country.


You can bet if 75% of the gerrymanderers were Democrats the conservative majority scotus would have found a legal basis for prohibiting it. They have ordered federal courts to turn a blind eye. Worst case of dereliction of duty I've ever seen. A federal candidate for a federal office in a federal election can't turn to the federal courts??? Too bad the conservatives didn't have that view in 2000. Think of all the lives that would have been saved.


bnick - funny, I had the same thoughts. Take on Maryland's then you can't ignore NC, Wisc, PA, etc....

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