Wednesday, September 15, 2021

If you want to limit political gerrymandering, gerrymander the hell out of NY

Political gerrymandering is horrible. It undermines democracy and locks in leaders who can't really get elected in their community. I strongly favor doing everything we can to get rid of it.

And yet, I am totally for New York engaging in hyper-political gerrymandering in this session. Not just because that is what the Republicans are doing in states they control, so Democrats need to fight back somehow (although that is also true). The main reason is as part of a longer-term strategy to abolish political gerrymandering.

I'm convinced that politicians are going to find a way to game the system to entrench their party no matter what checks we put in place. The only real solution has to be imposed by the judiciary (like the PA Supreme Court's ruling that imposed a much fairer map in 2018). While some state supreme courts are willing to undermine political gerrymandering (like PA's did), most states under solid Republican control have judges who are similarly committed to maintaining GOP dominance. The only national solution to the problem has to come through the federal judiciary.

But the federal judiciary is so packed with Republican appointees, it also seems to be pretty hostile to the concept of any kind of correction to the electoral system that might undermine Republican's disproportionate advantage in the House of Representatives. That's especially true on the Supreme Court level, where 6 Justices have shown they have no hesitation rule against electoral reforms that seem to help Democrats, no matter what their merits. The only way that the likes of Roberts or Alito will ever agree to a rule to limit partisan gerrymandering is if the rule is perceived as hurting Democrats.

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an attorney, she was famous for choosing her cases carefully to get to the precedent she wanted. A lot of the sex discrimination cases she brought were about discrimination against men. When she won relief for her male clients she got the Court to make neutral-sounding rules to govern sex discrimination cases in the future and those rules could later be used to protect women.

To get the current pro-GOP Supreme Court to do anything about partisan gerrymandering, you would need to bring a case where Democrats were advantaged by the gerrymandering map. As long as gerrymandering is viewed as something that just helps Republicans, the 6 conservative justices on the Court are going to find a way to make it constitutional. They won't see it as a problem until they think gerrymandering could threaten their party's interests too.