By Jason Harrow
Today, the Supreme Court ended its term with a pair of democracy reform decision that we thought you should know about. There was bad news on gerrymandering, cautiously good news on the Census — and, as always, cause to continue to be in this fight.
The bad news on gerrymandering was not unexpected but was still disappointing. In a pair of cases that together go by the name Rucho v. Common Cause, a 5–4 conservative majority said that whether district maps must be struck down because they have been gerrymandered for political reasons is a question that cannot be decided by federal courts. Unless that decision is overturned — and that’s not coming anytime soon — that means we need to keep working for federal and state laws providing for independent commissions that draw the maps. After all, people should choose their politicians; politicians shouldn’t choose their voters.
The better news came in a case challenging the Trump Administration’s attempt to add a question about citizenship status on the coming 2020 census. In Department of Commerce v. New York, the Supreme Court’s conservatives decided 5–4 that there could be valid reasons for adding this question, but Chief Justice Roberts joined the four more liberal justices in then holding that the reasons given in this case were not the Administration’s real reasons. That sends the matter back to the Trump Administration; whether there is time for it to try again is to be determined. Let’s just hope the clock has run out.
We wish the Supreme Court had said that it will put an end to ridiculous partisan gerrymanders and that it had determined, once and for all, that adding a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census would be arbitrary and illegal. But that’s just wishful thinking given this Supreme Court. The twin decisions highlight once again the problems with the way we pick the President and choose Supreme Court justices: if only the Electoral College hadn’t delivered the election to President Trump, then…
Well, no use going on from there. We are where we are, and where we are is here with you, fighting for common-sense democracy reform everyday. We’re more determined than ever to make change, with or without a helpful Supreme Court, and we hope you are too.
Jason Harrow is Equal Citizens Executive Director and Legal Counsel.