Supreme Court decision puts politics over democracy

Today’s US Supreme Court decision in the Texas redistricting case has given a green light to the controlling parties of state legislatures nationwide to use redistricting as a political weapon to determine the outcomes of congressional elections.

“This decision opens the door to an endless process of redrawing electoral maps for political gain and the big losers here are voters,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. “How can we hold our elected officials accountable when they draw district lines for the purpose of splitting communities, undermining representation and eliminating competition? The Supreme Court has said today that politicians can choose the voters they want to represent, instead of the other way around.”

A bright spot in the court’s decision was that it struck down a key piece of the redistricting plan engineered by former Rep. Tom DeLay, saying that some of the new boundaries did not protect the voting rights of Hispanic voters.

Common Cause has long advocated for independent redistricting commissions that would remove sitting legislators from the inherently conflicted process of drawing political boundaries. Time and time again, self-interested state legislators draw the lines to protect themselves and to eliminate meaningful electoral competition. New mapping technology is so advanced that elected officials can literally choose the households they want to represent. Both Democrats and Republicans attempt to manipulate where the lines are drawn to gain electoral advantage. The result has been increasingly polarized elected officials and ultimately an inability to address the critical social issues of the day.

“You end up with a cynical public that feels that their elected officials don’t represent their interests,” Pingree said.

Common Cause’s goal is legislative and congressional districts that are fair to voters and more representative of the population, and the creation of districting plans that result in more competitive races.

“We intend to fight the gerrymandering of electoral maps in every state where it occurs,” Pingree said. “It is time to establish independent redistricting commissions across the states that will draw maps that are fair to the voters. Today’s decision makes that fight all the more necessary and imperative.”

Pingree added that the court’s striking down of the boundary lines that failed to protect Hispanic voters highlights the need for Congress to immediately reauthorize the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and dismiss all questions of its constitutionality that have been raised by the congressional opponents.