Supreme Court endorses bids to end gerrymandering

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upheld an Arizona law that allowed that state’s Congressional districts to be draw by an independent commission – instead of the state Legislature.
The 5-4 decision has major implications in California, which has its own independent commission for drawing up Congressional boundaries.

State voters approved a ballot measure four years ago to take that job away from the state Legislature to discourage gerrymandering. The hope was that districts would be drawn more fairly to encourage more competitive races. States are required to redraw maps for Congressional and legislative districts once a decade, based on new Census data. California’s commission has 14 members, and nine “yeah votes” are required for to approve a new map.i-voted-sticker

Supporters say the latest maps in California and Arizona are a major improvement over previous maps. But Republican lawmakers in Arizona challenged that state’s law. Their argument rested on the Election Cause in the Constitution, which gives legislatures broad and exclusive powers over balloting.cong2011mapfinal

The majority opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – concludes that there is no constitutional impediment to independent panels drawing Congressional boundaries. The dissent was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who called the decision “a deliberate constitutional evasion,” with no precedent in Congress or the courts.

Next year, the Supreme Court will hear another case that could upend California’s Congressional districts. It will decide whether state and local voting districts should be based on total population, or eligible voters. If the court’s answer is eligible voters, it could diminish the political power of Latinos in some California districts.