Gerrymandering: voters rule

The Court's second decision today upheld the power of a state's voters over their legislature in a dispute over how gerrymandering concerns should be resolved. Per SCOTUSblog, "In 2000, Arizona voters amended the state’s constitution to give control over redistricting of federal congressional districts to an independent commission. This case is a challenge by the state legislature to that transfer, on the ground that it violated the Elections Clause" of the U.S. Constitution. Justice Kennedy joined the four liberal Justices in a 5-4 decision, which upheld the voters' right to override the legislature's redistricting process. SCOTUSblog further noted that the Supreme Court has several times already declined to address the constitutionality of gerrymandering per se. This decision also does not address the constitutionality of gerrymandering, but only whether the voters (via state constitutional amendment) or the legislature shall have the ultimate say over the drawing of federal congressional district lines. Scalia's dissent suggested that he didn't disagree with the voters' right to control redistricting--he would have dismissed the challenge for lack of jurisdiction--but he joined the dissent out of displeasure with the reasoning of the majority. The four dissenting justices (led by Roberts) objected that the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives the redistricting power to state legislatures, not the state populace. The majority, in contrast, acknowledged the state voters' right to rein in their legislature's approach by amending their state constitution to require delegation of the redistricting process to an independent commission. The SCOTUSblog interpretation was that the opinion favors new legislators over incumbents, and therefore has little effect unless the state is undergoing a political shift.

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