The Supreme Court has just dodged limiting gerrymandering and blocked a citizenship question from being tacked onto the 2020 census. You win some, you lose some.
The bitter debate centers around whether the Trump administration should be able to ask all recipients a citizenship question for the first time since the 1950 census.
While the Trump administration pushed for the citizenship question as a means to better comply with federal voting rights law, critics argued the move is merely an attempt to intimidate noncitizen and undocumented immigrants.
Critics also say the move would lead to a drop in response rates for underrepresented minorities. This would be a huge hit because data from the census is used to allocate congressional seats and distribute billions of federal dollars. If minorities don’t respond, they’ll be even more underrepresented and overlooked.
The Census Bureau’s in-house experts have predicted that millions of Hispanics and immigrants would be uncounted if the question was included.
The courts seem to agree. The Supreme Court ruled a split 5-4 on Thursday, per the AP, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the four liberals in forbidding the citizenship question.
A lower court also ruled that the question would violate federal law.
Supreme Court justices are saying the administration’s explanation for adding the question is “more of a distraction” than an explanation.
What is it a distraction from? Perhaps the fact that the citizenship question may have really been motivated because it offers voting advantages to “Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.”
But that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms. Check out this Paste explainer to learn more.
With census forms set to be printed next week, it’s still unknown whether the administration will have more time to give a better explanation—if there is one, that is.
But that’s not all. The Court was also set to rule on another politically charged topic: gerrymandering, and whether to allow placing limits on drawing electoral districts for partisan gain in two cases brought up by Democrats in North Carolina and Republicans in Maryland.
In response, the Supreme Court told the American people “that’s not our problem” by asserting that federal courts have no role in gerrymandering.
Claiming that the Constitution doesn’t bar partisan gerrymandering, a deeply divided, 5-4 Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t up to them, with conservative justices in the majority and liberal justices dissenting.
Advocates are already ringing alarm bells over the gerrymandering ruling, with some calling the decision a setback in the fight for fair maps that truly represent our country and don’t silence the voices of the underrepresented.
The decision may offer lawmakers even more leeway to draw up maps that maximize partisan gain. Roberts, meanwhile, has suggested that states consider adopting independent redistricting commissions…this despite the fact that he deemed such commissions unconstitutional in 2015.
With the 2020 census on the horizon, which requires maps to be redrawn to reflect population shifts, it’s clear this decision will be key in shaping the distribution of political power across the country for the next decade. In addition to unfairly underrepresented minorities, this kind of gerrymandering has drawn criticism across the political spectrum for minimizing closely contested political races, reducing citizens’ faith that their vote matters and making elected representatives too disconnected from the will of voters.
There’s been a general consensus across parties that partisan gerrymandering violates voter rights, but the court has been harder to convince.
It looks like the fight against gerrymandering will have to continue outside the courts.