Back in 2004, in Vieth v. Jubelirer, the Supreme Court decided not to intervene in this Gerrymandering case because it is "a non-justiciable question, as there are no judicially manageable standards available to resolve gerrymandering questions." Or simply saying that the primary issue was the lack of "standard by which to measure" the impacts and damages of gerrymandering.
One might assume the decision was entirely partisan given how the justices voted. However, Justice Kennedy, in his concurring opinion, acknowledged the problem:
"Here, one has the sense that legislative restraint was abandoned. That should not be thought to serve the interests of our political order. Nor should it be thought to serve our interest in demonstrating to the world how democracy works."
And the possibility of intervention—IF (big if) a measurement standard is developed:
"If workable standards do emerge to measure these burdens, however, courts should be prepared to order relief."
After years of work and research, people have returned to the Court with Gill v. Whitford. This time, with a new measurement standard called the efficiency gap (Eric McGhee, one of the inventors of efficiency gap, wrote an interesting post: "The efficiency gap is a measure, not a test"). Many say this is the most important case in this term at the Supreme Court.
Significance - Why it matters
There are 2 major significances:
- If the new standard fails again, the Court is not likely to hear the same type of case (i.e. gerrymandering intervention case) for several years.
- Redistriction season is approaching around the nation. Of course, the verdict of the case won't immediately change things overnight. But given 1, the verdict can leave long lasting impacts.
3 on who is this Gerry guy?: general backgrounds
- Gerrymandering: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
- Gerrymandering on Wikipedia
- Elbridge Gerry on Wikipedia
3 on what is this efficiency gap that everyone is talking about?
- Brennan Center - "How the efficiency gap works"
- Vox - "How the Supreme Court could limit gerrymandering, explained with a simple diagram"
- NYT - "How the New Math of Gerrymandering Works"
3 relevant questions to think about
- Can you demonsrate that the intent was to benefit a particular political party?
- Is the other party particularly in disadvantage over a long period of time? How sensitive is it to change over time? How do we measure the effects?
- Any other reasons (e.g. rural voters tend to be conservative, Democrats tend to live in cities, etc.) that can naturally affect the outcome?
3 notable/interesting cases on redistricting issue
3 podcast episodes
- More Perfect - "Who’s Gerry and Why Is He So Bad at Drawing Maps?": very helpful before listening/reading the Gill v. Whitford.
- More Perfect - "The Political Thicket": on Baker v. Carr and Justice Felix Frankfurter and Justice Charles Whittaker.
- 538 - "Gerrymandering Is On Trial"