high stakes

These Supreme Court cases could be a game changer for gerrymandering

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Two cases the Supreme Court hears tomorrow could have major implications for gerrymandering. The question at hand: whether lawmakers can legally get away with diluting the influence of minority voters. Both cases feature lawmakers drawing districts based on race in key purple states.

In North Carolina, lawmakers packed black voters together in congressional districts. A lower court ruled the map unconstitutional, but the state argues the districts are based on partisan politics and not race.

In Virginia, the case could impact the makeup of the statehouse—Republicans hold both chambers even though every statewide office is held by a Democrat. Surprise, state lawmakers there also made the ballots of black voters count less when they drew the legislative districts.

The Supreme Court looked at an almost identical case out of Virginia earlier this year that suggests the outcome could be good news for Democrats and minority voters. A lower court ruled the state’s congressional maps were unconstitutional for, you guessed it, packing together too many black voters, and the courts came up with a new map. The Supreme Court upheld the new map; however, they did not rule on the central issue of the case: whether state lawmaker illegally used race in drawing the districts.

Based on the earlier decision, it seems likely the Supreme Court will be a win for Democrats in two purple states where gerrymandering has given Republicans a significant edge. But how broadly the court will rule is anyone’s guess. And there’s one more thing.

As the Associated Press writes, “If the justices are evenly split, they could let the cases sit until a ninth justice joins them, possibly in the spring, and hold a second round of arguments.” Let’s pray that’s not how these cases play out. Any judge president-elect Donald Trump appoints will likely be a nightmare for redistricting.