Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Most Unsurprising Headline About a Supreme Court Ruling

Justices’ Texas Redistricting Ruling Likely to Help G.O.P.

Gosh, Where Have We Seen Rulings that Help Republicans Before?

Both political parties see the redistricting process as the opportunity to skew representation in the House of Representative in their favor, but in Texas that is a process taken to its extreme by Republicans.  In the last decade the Republican violated the unspoken law that redistricting happens only every ten years and gerrymandered the map in the middle of the decade to give Republicans more seats.

After the 2010 Census Texas Republicans drew a map which favored Republicans at the expense of Hispanic Americans.  The dispute got to the Supreme Court, or as it is widely known, the Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the Republican Party.  The Court sent the issue back to a lower court with instructions to defer to the Texas legislature.

The Supreme Court on Friday instructed a lower court in Texas to take a fresh look at election maps it had drawn in place of a competing set of maps from the Texas Legislature. The justices said the lower court had not paid enough deference to the Legislature’s choices and seemed to have improperly substituted its own values for those of elected officials.

Interestingly enough the decision was unanimous, indicating that even non Republican Justices have given up on having the Court any degree of electoral fairness. So expect state Congressional delegations to be widely skewed in favor of one party or the other.  This "representative democracy" thing just doesn't seem to be a concept the Supreme Court is familiar with. Of course ultra partisan Republican Clarence Thomas just wanted the Court to reinstate the legislature’s plan, all that stuff about due process or equality before the law not really being his thing.

In one sense the ruling is a victory, as The Dismal Political Economist feared the Justices would use the case to gut the Voting Rights Act.  That apparently is coming later, probably about one Supreme Court Justice appointment from now.

The constitutionality of Section 5 itself was not at issue in the case, but the opinion said its “intrusion on state sovereignty” raises “serious constitutional questions,” quoting in part from a 2009 decision. In his concurrence, Justice Thomas went further, repeating his view that “Section 5 is unconstitutional.”

In a more logical ruling the Justices objected to a lower court ruling that West Virginia’s Congressional Districts had to be absolutely equal in population.  The districts that were drawn were unbalanced only to the degree of a couple of thousand people.  That should be close enough, and apparently the Supreme Court agreed.

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