partisan redistricting, gerrymandering, supreme court


Election Law | Political Science


Mark Richards


Partisan redistricting, more commonly known as gerrymandering, is the act of a political party in power using its majority to draw district maps in such a way that it stays in power or increases its power. The United States Census takes place every ten years as mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, when the maps for state and national Congress are redrawn to better allocate representation among the people. Examples of this include the two cases that are discussed in Rucho v Common Cause, the redistricting case from 2019. In this case, both the Democrat-controlled government of Maryland and the Republican-controlled government of North Carolina attempted to cement their majorities by gerrymandering their maps. For example, in the case of Maryland, those that were drawing the maps attempted to take the one House seat away that was controlled by a Republican and give it to a Democrat. If that plan were to succeed, then any Republican in the state of Maryland would not have a Representative in Congress who represents their interests. This is the reality for many areas of America.

Partisan redistricting is nothing new; in the years following the ratification of the Constitution, partisan redistricting took place in an attempt to deny James Madison a seat in the very first Congressional elections. The gerrymander itself is named after Elbridge Gerry, who in 1812 approved maps that Democratic-Republicans had drawn to keep their majority. However, as compared to as long as it has gone on, the Supreme Court has only recently taken up the issue due to the decision in 1964’s Baker v Carr. In 2018 and 2019, there were two major cases that were decided in Gill v Whitford (2018) and Rucho v Common Cause (2019). This paper seeks to analyze these recent cases while proposing solutions to solve the issue. This paper will start with the values at stake when considering why partisan redistricting is an issue. Then, before analyzing Gill and Rucho, relevant Supreme Court precedent will be examined to examine how the two cases came about and the decisions that were made before them. Gill and Rucho will then be analyzed, including the facts of the cases, the majority opinion in each case, along with the dissenting opinion in Rucho. Finally, the paper will focus on solutions to partisan redistricting and tests the Court can use to determine when it is too egregious.