Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s sneaky attack on partisan gerrymandering is beginning to pay dividends

beSpacific 2018-01-11

Slate – Mark Joseph Stern: “On Tuesday, a federal district court made history by striking down North Carolina’s congressional map. The decision marks the first time a court has invalidated a congressional redistricting scheme as illegally gerrymandering along partisan lines. It arrives at a critical moment for the development of a legal theory that requires federal courts to set limits on political redistricting. Tuesday’s rigorous ruling bolsters the constitutional case against partisan gerrymandering, which the Supreme Court may well affirm this year. It relies heavily on the writing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who aided opponents of gerrymandering in a crucial but often overlooked 2015 opinion…In 2015, however, Ginsburg seized upon a tangential case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC), to strike a surreptitious jurisprudential blow against political gerrymanders. AIRC did not involve a direct challenge to partisan redistricting. Rather, it was a challenge to an Arizona law, passed via ballot initiative, that stripped the legislature of its redistricting duties and delegated them to a non-partisan commission. In a 5–4 decision authored by Ginsburg, the court concluded that independent redistricting was a constitutionally permissible exercise of the people’s “legislative power.” But Ginsburg did not stop there. In several remarkable passages, Ginsburg cast aspersions on partisan gerrymandering itself. The justice began her opinion by stating flatly that “partisan gerrymanders are incompatible with democratic principles.” She described political redistricting as a “problem” that “subordinate[s] adherents of one political party and entrench[es] a rival party in power.” And she pointed out that this practice contravenes “the core principle of republican government”—that “the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around…”