The 2018-2019 Supreme Court term ends in two weeks, with 24 cases yet to be decided. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned recently to prepare for a bitterly divided court over those decisions, some of which have enormous implications for American democracy. There are two cases in particular that could influence election outcomes for the next decade, at least.
Between now and the end of June, the nine justices will rule on two intensely political issues — whether President Donald Trump’s administration can put a citizenship question on the 2020 census and whether federal courts can strike down voting maps as excessively partisan…
The Trump administration wants census-takers to ask about the citizenship of every person in the country. The administration says that would reinstate a practice that dates back to 1820, though the question hasn’t been posed to every household since 1950.
The administration says the question would produce valuable data to help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act, a law passed to protect minorities at the polls.
But a federal judge called that explanation a “pretext” and said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ignored evidence that the question would reduce participation in the census among non-citizens and Hispanics. Opponents recently said they had uncovered new evidence that the real goal was to give Republican and white voters more clout.
The question is whether the court will even consider that new evidence in a case they had likely already decided when it came out. But even more important is the gerrymandering case, or rather cases. As I’ve explained before, the court has never intervened in a case involving partisan gerrymandering rather than racial gerrymandering. Chief Justice Roberts has expressed his concern that if they intervened here they will be forced to hear legal challenges to nearly every redistricting map. Sounds like a good reason to issue a clear ruling with bright line rules establishing what state governments may or may not do when drawing them.
If the court refuses to intervene here, it will lock in the massive electoral advantage the Republicans have over the House of Representatives and most state legislatures for the foreseeable future, completely distorting our political system. In state after state, Democrats get many more votes than Republicans for those legislatures and yet the Republicans have firm control over them because they have rigged the system with district maps that hobble the Democrats and give the GOP an automatic advantage. Will we have a Congress, both federal and state, that actually reflects the views of the voters, or will we have a rigged system that prevents that from happening? Nothing less than the nature of our country is at stake.
I’m not optimistic about the outcome. In either of these cases.