The "Solution" in Redistricting Is Worse Than the Problem

Charles Lane has good editorial entitled "This solution to gerrymandering is worse than the problem," explaining the dangers of why courts, even the Supreme Court, should not be involved in political redistricting. He likens it to the Supreme Court considering censoring “blue” or pornographic movies in the 1970s. Yes, it is distasteful but the alternative of the court deciding whether every film is “too blue” is not the best or appropriate role for a court.

Lane cites former moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as having the right approach to redistricting:

As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the last member of the court with experience as a state legislator, put it in a 1986 opinion, the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the laws "does not supply judicially manageable standards for resolving purely political gerrymandering claims, and no group right to an equal share of political power was ever intended" by the document's authors.

Lane points out that Justices seem a bit confused on these political redistricting cases now before them:

"It seems like a pretty clear violation of the Constitution in some form to have deliberate, extreme gerrymandering," Justice Stephen Breyer observed. "But is there a practical remedy that won't get judges involved in every - or dozens and dozens and dozens of very important political decisions?"

Lane also explains the problem is overstated.  The respected left-of-center Cook Report concludes the redistricting problem is overstated:

Why risk fatally politicizing the courts to fight a problem that's not entirely to blame for our political dysfunction anyway? The Cook Political Report's David Wasserman and Ally Flinn found that redistricting explains only 17 percent of the decline in competitive congressional districts over the past 20 years. Partisan gerrymandering "may be just as much a symptom of America's political problems as a cause," writes Harry Enten, an expert on gerrymandering.

Lane’s conclusion is spot on:

Sandra Day O'Connor was right: The Supreme Court should leave partisan politics to the partisan politicians.