Fact Check: Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Misses the Mark on Redistricting Reform

Gerrymandering is wrong, no matter who does it – Democrats or Republicans. The fight for fair redistricting has always been about shifting power from politicians to the people.

The Wall Street Journal got one fact right in it’s September 4th editorial headlined “Eric Holder’s Redistricting Coup.” It is true that both political parties will steal power from voters by gerrymandering if left unchecked.

As to the rest of the editorial, it’s fact check time.

FACT #1: Chief Justice Roberts did not say only legislatures, partisan by nature, have a role drawing legislative districts. What he did say in Rucho v. Common Cause, was that the decision “does not condone excessive partisan gerrymandering” or “condemn complaints about districting to echo into a void.” The Supreme Court went on to list the multiple avenues that We the People have to challenge gerrymanders, including: “Provisions in state statutes and state constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply.”

FACT #2: All states have their own state constitutions. (Remember federalism?) Twenty-eight states have a Free Elections clause in their state constitutions, something the US Constitution lacks. It is under these state Free Elections protections that state courts in Pennsylvania and North Carolina have ordered partisan gerrymanders to be re-drawn to reflect the will of Pennsylvania and North Carolina voters for the first time this decade.

FACT #3:  Americans demand fair maps. Democrats (65%), independents (64%), and Republicans (59%) view gerrymandering unfavorably and 70% of all voters agree the Supreme Court should limit the practice (ALG Research/GS Strategy Group, 2019). It’s easy to see why.

In state after state, people want real choices on the ballot. Instead, what they have is elections where hand-picked politicians run in districts that they are guaranteed to win. That’s why a majority of Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah voters passed redistricting reform measures in 2018. Like it or not, this is an issue where Republicans and Democrats agree – we don’t want our elections to be rigged.

FACT #4: When courts have redrawn maps to correct partisan gerrymanders, they are allowing voters to express their election choices. In states like Pennsylvania, where Republican legislators manipulated the lines to lock in more than 2/3 of congressional seats, in a state that is split 50/50 between the two parties, any impartial map is going to result in a few more seats going to Democrats.  That’s not a map drawn “to help Democrats.” That’s just a fair map.

FACT #5: Throughout this decade, multiple courts have repeatedly found that North Carolina’s party leaders had manipulated the lines unconstitutionally to draw racial or partisan gerrymanders – and ordered the General Assembly to redraw the lines.

In Common Cause v. Lewis, the bipartisan three-judge North Carolina court stated: “The effect of these carefully crafted partisan maps is that, in all but the most unusual election scenarios, the Republican Party will control a majority of both chambers of the General Assembly. In other words, the court finds that in many election environments, it is the carefully crafted maps, and not the will of the voters, that dictate the election outcomes in a significant number of legislative districts and, ultimately, the majority control of the General Assembly.”

FACT #6: You may not like the fact that California elects a lot of Democrats, but questioning the California’s Citizen Redistricting Commission process in 2011 with no facts is beneath the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board. The commission included 4 independents, 5 Republicans and 5 Democrats. This 14-person commission voted to adopt maps with near unanimous support from Republican, Democrat, and independent commissioners. Before you suggest there was manipulation because some party operatives tried to sneak in trumped-up testimony to the Commission, know that the California Supreme Court – made up of a majority of judges appointed by Republican governors – unanimously affirmed the maps.

FACT #7: The assertion that Common Cause only opposes gerrymandering when Republicans are in charge is false.  Common Cause endured the slings and arrows of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and stood with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and now-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to back redistricting reforms in democratically-controlled California. We have pushed redistricting reform and challenged maps in multiple blue states like Maryland, Illinois and California. And it was not so long ago that we stood with North Carolina Republicans when they were in the minority, to challenge Democrats to change the redistricting process that they controlled.

Gerrymandering is wrong, no matter who does it – Democrats or Republicans. The fight for fair redistricting has always been about shifting power from politicians to the people.