Supreme Court issues major rulings on last day
In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan, writes: “Of all times to abandon the Court’s duty to declare the law, this was not the one. The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the Court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections. With respect but deep sadness, I dissent.”
She added: “And gerrymandering is, as so many Justices have emphasized before, anti-democratic in the most profound sense.”
On Friday, Kagan had joined Justice Stephen Breyer in sounding the alarm on precedent.
CNN's Ariane De Vogue contributed reporting.
Chief Justice John Roberts said that it should be up to the states to address the issue of partisan gerrymandering, not federal judges.
He sided with the 5-4 conservative majority.
Here's what he wrote in his opinion:
“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts. Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.”
He also added,
“Our conclusion does not condone excessive partisan gerrymandering. Nor does our conclusion condemn complaints about districting to echo into a void. The States, for example, are actively addressing the issue on a number of fronts.”
The Supreme Court said Thursday that federal courts must stay out of disputes over when politicians go too far in drawing district lines for partisan gain — a ruling could fundamentally affect the balance of power in state legislatures and Congress.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 5-4 decision for the conservative majority.
The court was asked to consider when politicians go too far in drawing lines for partisan gain in a set of cases arising from North Carolina and Maryland.
The North Carolina case was brought by Democrats challenging Republican-drawn maps, while the Maryland case was brought by Republicans challenging a Democratic map.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on two different cases on the issue of gerrymandering.
Here's what you need to know about them:
- North Carolina: Rucho v. Common Cause was brought by voting rights groups and Democratic voters, among others, who argue that North Carolina's 2016 congressional districting plan was unconstitutional. They say the map drawn by Republican legislators amounted to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander that intentionally diluted the electoral strength of individuals who oppose Republicans.
- Maryland: Lamone v. Benisek was brought by seven Republican voters, who argue that Democratic then-Gov. Martin O'Malley, who was overseeing the redistricting process, took particular aim at the state's 6th Congressional District. The officials targeted some 66,000 Republicans in the district and added some 24,000 Democratic voters, therefore swinging the district, according to their court documents.
In Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek, the court is considering when politicians go too far in drawing lines for partisan gain in a set of cases arising from North Carolina and Maryland that could fundamentally impact the balance of power in legislatures and Congress. Similar cases out of Ohio and Michigan have been put on hold pending the Supreme Court's decision.
Although the court has a standard to weed out extreme racial gerrymanders, it has never been able to settle on a standard for partisan gerrymandering.
What’s being argued about here: The critics say that with sophisticated new redistricting technology, map drawers are able to manipulate the system more than ever, and entrench the governing party in power. States argue that there is no manageable standard and that the Constitution gives them broad authority to regulate redistricting.
Why these cases matter: On the eve of the next census, this case could change how maps are drawn. The justices could, for the first time, establish a test to determine when partisan motivation is too much, or they could slam the door shut on such claims, holding that it is an issue better left to the political branches of government.
We're expecting the US Supreme Court to hand down an opinion on a case about the 2020 census today.
In Dept. of Commerce v. NewYork, the court is wading into a bitter controversy over whether the Trump administration can ask all recipients a citizenship question on the 2020 census for the first time since 1950.
- Why it matters: With the 2020 census fast approaching, how the justices rule in this case about political representation could impact the critical data derived from the census, which is used for issues such as the allocation of congressional seats and the distribution of billions of federal dollars to states and localities over the next decade.
- What the Trump administration is saying: The administration claims that the question is necessary to better comply with federal voting rights law, while critics say it represents a veiled attempt to intimidate non-citizens and Hispanic households and will lead to a decrease in response rates.
- How other courts have ruled: Every lower court to consider the issue has so far blocked the administration from adding a question about citizenship status to the census questionnaire, holding that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has jurisdiction, exceeded his authority under federal law or the Constitution by doing so.
This case has also seen a flood of potentially new key evidence: After arguments, the challengers informed the court they had obtained "new evidence" that the decision was politically motivated.
They have told the justices that if they are inclined to rule in favor of the government, the opinion should be delayed until next fall to give lower courts the opportunity to review a trove of new documents from the files of a deceased republican redistricting expert. The Justice Department sent a fiery brief to the court accusing the challengers of bringing an 11th hour attempt to derail the case and calling the allegation a "conspiracy theory." Solicitor General Noel Francisco urged the justices not to stray from the record at hand.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Maryland issued an opinion on Monday suggesting the new evidence was significant because it "potentially connects the dots between a discriminatory purpose — diluting Hispanics' political power — and Ross's decision" to add the question.
It’s the last day of the SCOTUS term. We’re awaiting opinions on three heavily followed cases:
- Two cases on the topic of partisan gerrymandering
- Another that will determine how the 2020 census is administered