The Supreme Court is reviewing NC’s congressional districts because of racial gerrymandering. Justice Elena Kagan said Monday that redistricting based on politics is okay, but redistricting based on race is not. And the case will likely come down to the question: race or politics? The reality is that partisan redistricting is detrimental to democracy because it often involves ulterior motives and we cannot stand for racial gerrymandering.
It’s time for an independent redistricting commission to draw fair maps.
The no-no, as Kagan noted, is when race is the determining factor, which the courts have ruled unconstitutional. But the partisan divide has grown extreme, and in many states, a party in power has not been subtle in drawing lines that are designed to give one party not only an advantage, but an overwhelming advantage.
Except, that is, in the 21 states that use a bipartisan or nonpartisan commission to draw new district lines. That encourages political parties to be less extreme and more prone to compromise when they haven’t guaranteed themselves re-election with gerrymandered districts. And that, in turn, makes the legislative process more even-handed and representative.
The Supreme Court, currently divided 4-4 among liberals and conservatives, will, one hopes, one day confront the ever-more-damaging issue of partisan redistricting. Common Cause, the state Democratic Party and others have filed a federal lawsuit in North Carolina that could lead the Supreme Court to assess the way partisan redistricting undermines the goal of fair representation.
It’s time for all states to have independent commissions for redistricting. That way best serves the public, the states and democracy.
Kagan’s statement may reflect the reality of redistricting as it stands, but the extreme partisanship that now dominates the process in most states means playing politics with district lines it is no longer “fine.”