NATIONAL NEWS

Supreme Court Allows Partisan Districts, Blocks Census Query

Jun 27, 2019, 9:38 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:04 pm
The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — In two politically charged rulings, the Supreme Court dealt a huge blow Thursday to efforts to combat the drawing of electoral districts for partisan gain and put a hold on the Trump administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

On the court’s final day of decisions before a summer break, the conservative justices ruled that federal courts have no role to play in the dispute over the practice known as partisan gerrymandering. The decision could embolden political line-drawing for partisan gain when state lawmakers undertake the next round of redistricting following the 2020 census.

Voters and elected officials should be the arbiters of what is a political dispute, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court.

The court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland.

The decision was a major blow to critics of the partisan manipulation of electoral maps that can result when one party controls redistricting.

The districting plans “are highly partisan by any measure,” Roberts said.

But he said courts are the wrong place to settle these disputes.

In dissent for the four liberals, Justice Elena Kagan wrote, “For the first time ever, this court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.” Kagan, in mournful tones, read a summary of her dissent in court to emphasize her disagreement.

Federal courts in five states concluded that redistricting plans put in place under one party’s control could go too far and that there were ways to identify and manage excessively partisan districts. Those courts included 15 federal judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents reaching back to Jimmy Carter.

But the five Republican-appointed justices decided otherwise.

The decision effectively reverses the outcome of rulings in Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio, where courts had ordered new maps drawn, and ends proceedings in Wisconsin, where a retrial was supposed to take place this summer after the Supreme Court last year threw out a decision on procedural grounds.

Proponents of limiting partisan gerrymandering still have several routes open to them, including challenges in state courts. There is a pending North Carolina lawsuit.

The North Carolina case has its roots in court decisions striking down some of the state’s congressional districts because they were illegal racial gerrymanders.

When lawmakers drew new maps as a result, Republicans who controlled the legislature sought to perpetuate the 10-3 GOP advantage in the congressional delegation. Democratic voters sued over the new districts, complaining that they were driven by partisan concerns.

The voters won a lower court ruling, as did Democrats in Wisconsin who challenged state assembly districts. But when the Supreme Court threw out the Wisconsin ruling on procedural grounds that did not address the partisan gerrymandering claims, the justices also ordered a new look at the North Carolina case. A three-judge court largely reinstated its ruling.

In Maryland, Democrats controlled redistricting and sought to flip one district that had been represented by a Republican for 20 years. Their plan succeeded, and a lower court concluded that the district violated the Constitution.

The high court agreed to hear both cases.

In the census case, the court said the Trump administration’s explanation for wanting to add the question was “more of a distraction” than an explanation. The administration had cited the need to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act.

There was no immediate response from the White House on either Supreme Court decision Thursday.

It’s unclear whether the administration would have time to provide a fuller account. Census forms are supposed to be printed beginning next week.

Roberts again had the court’s opinion, with the four liberals joining him in the relevant part of the outcome.

A lower court found the administration violated federal law in the way it tried to add a question broadly asking about citizenship for the first time since 1950.

The Census Bureau’s own experts have predicted that millions of Hispanics and immigrants would go uncounted if the census asked everyone if he or she is an American citizen.

Immigrant advocacy organizations and Democratic-led states, cities and counties argue the citizenship question is intended to discourage the participation of minorities, primarily Hispanics, who tend to support Democrats, from filling out census forms.

The challengers say they would get less federal money and fewer seats in Congress if the census asks about citizenship because people with noncitizens in their households would be less likely to fill out their census forms.

Evidence uncovered since the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in late April supports claims that the citizenship question is part of a broader Republican effort to accrue political power at the expense of minorities, the challengers say.

The Constitution requires a census count every 10 years. A question about citizenship had once been common, but it has not been widely asked since 1950. At the moment, the question is part of a detailed annual sample of a small chunk of the population, the American Community Survey.

The case stems from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ decision in 2018 to add a citizenship question to the next census, over the advice of career officials at the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department. At the time, Ross said he was responding to a Justice Department request to ask about citizenship in order to improve enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

A live-action "Stranger Things" spinoff and a "stage play set within the world and mythology" of th...
Frank Pallotta, CNN Business

‘Stranger Things’ is ending, but a spinoff is in the works

"Stranger Things" is coming to an end, but its upside-down stories will live on.
15 hours ago
Rising prices have some cash-strapped shoppers reaching for buy now pay later payment methods for e...
Alicia Wallace, CNN Business

Red flag: Consumers are using Buy Now, Pay Later to cover everyday expenses

Buy Now, Pay Later installment plans have become popular among consumers seeking to spread out the cost of big-ticket purchases. But now, rising prices have some cash-strapped shoppers reaching for these alternative payment methods for everyday purchases, such as their daily coffee, gas station fill-up or grocery run, as well.
15 hours ago
As monkeypox cases continue to rise globally, the World Health Organization plans to reassess wheth...
Jacqueline Howard, CNN

WHO to consider again whether monkeypox outbreak is public health emergency of international concern

As monkeypox cases continue to rise globally, the World Health Organization plans to reassess whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
15 hours ago
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield is expected to depart her role in the coming w...
MJ Lee, Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield leaving her role

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield will depart her role in the coming weeks, chief of staff Ron Klain told CNN on Wednesday.
15 hours ago
FILE (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)...
Catherine Thorbecke, CNN Business

Amazon partners with Grubhub to offer Prime customers meal delivery perks

Amazon Prime members can now get free meal deliveries through Grubhub+ as part of a growing business partnership between the two companies.
15 hours ago
Apple said it will release a new feature this fall for iPhone, Mac and iPad operating software that...
Sean Lyngaas, CNN Business

Apple plans new feature to protect journalists, human rights workers from spyware

Apple on Wednesday said it will release a new feature this fall for iPhone, Mac and iPad operating software that is designed to protect high-risk users such as journalists and human rights workers from sophisticated spyware that has been linked to human rights abuses.
15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...
AARP Utah

Utah Voters 50+ Support Increased Access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
Supreme Court Allows Partisan Districts, Blocks Census Query