Concurrent to the issue of potential Russian meddling in our most recent presidential election, the issue remains that not everyone who should be able to vote can. This issue rears its head both through oppressive voter ID laws and through district lines that are drawn to favor one political party — most often Republicans.
These two problems converge in at least one state — Wisconsin — if not in more. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case in early August, Gill v. Whitford, that seeks to have the body rule upon the question of whether or not district lines which favor one political party over the other are unconstitutional. Arizona’s Republican Senator John McCain joined with Rhode Island’s Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse this week to urge the court to rule that lines that favor one political party are, in fact, unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court has never ruled on such a question in the past; previous questions about gerrymandering have all focused on the disenfranchisement of minority voters — who are, to be sure, most often Democrat.
When faced with similar questions in the past, the Supreme Court has refused to hear the case. Justices have questioned whether or not they are in a position to determine a set standard for whether or not district lines that seem to favor one political party over another are truly unconstitutional.
This time around, however, the court has a potentially simpler task — at least, that’s how Sens. McCain and Whitehouse seek to cast the issue. In this case, the court will either affirm or strike down a lower court’s decision that found the lines in question to be, in fact, unconstitutional.
McCain and Whitehouse say that for the Supreme Court to affirm the decision would avoid the issue of having to themselves establish a test, and instead, it would “send a clear message that partisan gerrymandering will not be tolerated.”
As the Senators elaborated, gerrymandering is a serious undercut to what’s supposed to be the representative nature of American government.
In a friend of the court brief, the Senators wrote:
‘Americans do not like gerrymandering. They see its mischief, and absent a legal remedy, their sense of powerlessness and discouragement has increased, deepening the crisis of confidence in our democracy. We share this perspective. We see wasted votes and silenced voices. We see hidden power. And we see a correctable problem.’
McCain and Whitehouse are not the only ones asking the court to rule that the district lines are unconstitutional. As The Huffington Post reports, 65 current and former state lawmakers from across the nation also filed a brief urging the court to rule that the lines are unconstitutional.
Wisconsin has been a venue of voting issues in the past. During the most recent election season, oppressive voter ID laws went into effect. Those laws were estimated to have kept up to hundreds of thousands of people from voting.
Additionally, Wisconsin isn’t the only place that voting issues such as these have arisen. North Carolina, for instance, has come under federal scrutiny for oppressive voter ID laws, and Texas had come under similar scrutiny for district lines that favor one political party over another.
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