Republicans get slapped down on gerrymandering efforts

Ever since the US Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 that Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was no longer constitutional because more than 40 years had elapsed since the law was passed, Republican controlled states had felt that they were now free to gerrymander electoral districts to minimize or even eliminate districts that had majority Black populations which were more likely to elect Democratic candidates. And they proceeded to do so, with Alabama being one of the first off the mark.

They drew a map that had just one Black majority district even though Alabama has 25% Black population. An Appeals Court rejected that map and Alabama appealed to the US Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel struck down the map last year, deciding the state could have easily drawn a reasonably configured district that gave Black voters a majority in a second district. The supreme court agreed with that determination in June, with chief justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh joining the three liberal justices to form a majority.

Although that verdict surprised most observers, you would think that it would have ended settled the issue. But no. Republicans drew another map that still did not have two Black majority districts. It was clear that they were trying to run out the clock, and squeeze in the 2024 election under the old map before being forced to redraw it. They were promptly sued again and the Appeals Court had had enough of Alabama’s shenanigans and scolded the state for ignoring the Supreme Court order and went even further and took away the map drawing ability from the legislature and gave it to a special master.

Alabama then sued to prevent that but today, the Supreme Court rejected that appeal so the special master will draw the map.

“It has been a long and frustrating battle holding the Alabama legislature accountable, but today it is a rewarding one,” lawyers from a coalition of civil rights groups, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, said in a joint statement. “Even after the highest court in the land sided with Black voters in June, our elected officials still chose power over people by outright defying multiple court orders and the loud cries of their constituents to do the right thing.”

In the age of serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT), Republicans have become increasingly shameless in trying to ignore court rulings that go against them. Once priding themselves on being the party of law and order, they are now a party of scofflaws..


  1. jenorafeuer says

    @Matt G:
    As people have been pointing out for years, it has been about the racism for decades. Nixon won the presidency as a Republican by actively courting the racist ‘Dixiecrats’. The Moral Majority was never angry about Roe v. Wade, they actually got angry about Bob Jones University v. U.S. where BJU complained because their actively racist policies were costing them government support. (Bob Jones and Richard Nixon were friends.)

    It’s just that until Trump proved that you could be openly and crassly racist without losing support, most of them were at least pretending to not be racist so they could get more support from the diminishing middle, at least until they gerrymandered enough districts to be guaranteed to not lose again.

  2. beholder says

    Redrawing districts needs to be taken out of the hands of the legislature. Such an arrangement is blatantly self-serving, whether it’s Republicans or Democrats in charge.

    Redistricting should be a community effort. Something involving a random sample of the population much like jury duty, or perhaps a competition for machine-generated districts open to the public with each submission’s source code freely available for inspection.

  3. jenorafeuer says

    In Canada, the district redrawing is in the hands of Elections Canada, a non-partisan group of civil servants, and has been since early in the 20th century. Active membership in any political party is an automatic disqualifier to employment. (I think there’s already been a court case over whether or not that violates non-discrimination laws, but the ruling was that since membership in a political party is entirely optional here and they are completely agnostic as to which party, it didn’t count as discrimination.) They take their non-partisanship very seriously.

    The problem in the U.S. is, of course, that there’s no way the current state legislatures that rely on gerrymandering to stay in power will ever want to give that up, and the recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act means that something new would have to be passed just to force that to happen; and getting anything new actually passed is just as difficult with the state-level gerrymandering still in place.

    It’s the sort of thing that would have been easier to set up and pass long before there were people taking enough advantage of the situation to make the need for it obvious.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    It seems as if Trump has had the same literally demoralising effect on US politics that David Cameron plus Boris Johnson had in UK (there was another PM between them but these two were the big ones).
    I suppose you might say George W Bush played a role compareable to Cameron, and to Tony Blair at the end (lying the country into a war, among other things).

    In Canada, Harper had a deranged fetish for imitating Dubya’s least successful policies but he was not quite Trump-level rotten.

    Hungary’s Victor Orban predates Trump, but European villains in countries with a weak democratic tradition have plenty of other role models, such as the idiot who invaded Abyssinia.

  5. seachange says

    @8 hyphenman
    I agree with you. Systematic intransigence is guaranteed. They intend to repeatedly try to get precedent so hard that even if it does not succeed in their state that some other state it might work.

    @4 beholder
    The reason California has ‘independent redistricting’ is because for many years the Republican Party has been the tail wagging the dog. They used our populist initiative laws to make it so our state is one of very few where budgets are two-thirds instead of simple majority. Because they couldn’t and didn’t stand a chance otherwise. When our electorate became more strongly Democratic Party than that, and when the Democratic Party which controlled redistricting attempted to squelch them by writing them out of power, then several initiatives
    saying “redistricting should be independent, gawrsh oh golly”.

    If they can’t take it, they shouldn’t dish it out.

    The Democratic Party, and the people of California, are of a sufficiently high majority now, 80% that they should simply abolish this law and then gerrymander the fuck out of the entire state, including Kevin McCarthy’s district. Our state’s delegation to the House of Representatives is so strong that this would switch which party is in the majority.

  6. prl says

    In Canada, the district redrawing is in the hands of Elections Canada, a non-partisan group of civil servants

    Similarly in Australia. Federal elections are overseen by the Australian Electoral Commission, which maintains the electoral roll, conducts elections and the count, and draws electoral boundaries. There are similar state bodies for state elections.

    Their decisions, and disputed counts, can be challenged in the Australian High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns.

    But then, in Australia, federal elections are also a matter for federal law.

  7. jenorafeuer says


    But then, in Australia, federal elections are also a matter for federal law.

    And that, of course, is one of the biggest problems with getting anything like this done in the U.S.

    Presumably issues with Elections Canada can also be challenged to the Supreme Court, but I’m not aware of any real serious attempts. Even the Conservatives who would love to bias things more in their favour have mostly understood that such a challenge would almost certainly be a P.R. disaster for them. That said, the current head of the Conservative Party of Canada doesn’t seem to care as much about that… he was one of the ‘attack dogs’ under previous Conservative Prime Minister Harper. Harper tended to keep a tight leash on the more extreme elements of his party, recognizing that he needed to at least appear reasonable to get into power to do things; Poilievre doesn’t see as much need to keep a leash on such things.

    Interestingly, while provincial elections are a matter of provincial law here in Canada, Ontario at least (not 100% sure about other provinces) uses the federal riding boundaries for the provincial ridings as well, because it’s cheaper and easier than setting up their own commission, and the federal boundaries aren’t allowed to spread across provincial borders anyway. Pretty sure that’s not a legal requirement, just something done to make elections easier to deal with. They also generally extend that down to the city ward level. (Which caused issues in the last full City of Toronto elections because the province decided to force the city to redraw the ward boundaries after the election process had already started, requiring the city to reprint election materials for a number of wards.)

  8. beholder says

    @9 seachange

    The Democratic Party, and the people of California, are of a sufficiently high majority now, 80% that they should simply abolish this law and then gerrymander the fuck out of the entire state …

    And this accomplishes what, exactly? Your favorite team is assured to win every election, so the candidates become further insulated from popular sentiment. Your favorite team recapitulates all the problems you had assumed were particular to the other team, simply because all the levers of control are in the hands of one party, so all the swamp monsters join that party.

    Might as well do away with elections entirely and call yourselves the Antidemocratic party, or the Oligarchic Party. After all, the party knows best, right? Dear leader wouldn’t appoint bad candidates for us, right?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *