Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, decried U.S. Supreme Court rulings on gerrymandering cases Monday because they did not address the merits of the arguments against district maps in two cases.
“While I am disappointed in the overall ruling, I am hopeful a reconsideration by the lower court in Wisconsin will lead to a decision, either in Wisconsin or at the Supreme Court next year, on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering,” Lowenthal said.
“I truly believe that voters should pick their politicians, not the other way around. Voters should be guaranteed choices at the ballot box, not treated like political pawns to keep entrenched power embedded.
“Guardrails must be put on the redistricting process, otherwise, politicians will take advantage of the system and the result will be a continuation of the unfair, unconstitutional practice of gerrymandering.”
In September, Lowenthal was among 25 current and former House members — 17 Democrats, seven Republicans and former Rep. Tom Campbell, who was a Republican when he served in Congress but switched his registration to No Party Preference in 2016 — who filed an amicus brief in the Gill v. Whitford case the high court ruled on Monday.
Lowenthal was also among 34 current and former House members — 18 Democrats and 16 Republicans — filing an amicus brief in the Benisek v. Lamone case, which was also ruled on Monday.
In both cases, the high court kicked the cases back to lower courts to consider various issues with the lawsuits as they stand. Gill v. Whitford challenged Wisconsin’s redistricting, but the justices ruled unanimously that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing to bring their case, but were allowed to return to the lower court to show they have the right to bring the lawsuit.
“I am pleased that the highest court in the land has unanimously reversed the trial court’s erroneous decision invalidating Wisconsin’s Assembly map,” Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said. “Today is a win for the rule of law in Wisconsin.”
In the other lawsuit, a challenge was made to remapping of one congressional district in Maryland, but the justices unanimously ruled the challengers had waited too long to seek an injunction blocking the district, which was drawn in 2011.
Lowenthal argued that the congressional maps drawn following the 2010 census were “some of the most partisan ever devised,” and added that the rulings do “nothing to prevent political parties from gerrymandering.”
Lowenthal told City News Service there isn’t much Congress can do in the meantime, and expressed concerned that time was running out with the 2020 census looming that would affect how districts will be drawn in 2021.
“While I am disappointed in today’s ruling, I recognize that there are still a number of promising developments that can still address the issue of gerrymandering before the 2020 decennial census and the next round of political redistricting,” Lowenthal said in an emailed reply to questions from City News Service.
“Of these opportunities, sadly, the least likely to lead anywhere is through Congress. While there are some pieces of legislation addressing partisan gerrymandering, including (a resolution) co-authored by myself and Republican Pennsylvania Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, current Republican leadership has not shown a desire to take up any legislation challenging gerrymandering.
“Hopefully, the next Congress will address the issue, but I am not optimistic the president will support them.”
Lowenthal said he was encouraged that the two cases “will be able to be re-argued at their respective federal courts, and if both go quickly can be brought back to the Supreme Court as soon as their next session.”
Lowenthal noted there is another case out of North Carolina for the high court to consider next.
“There are also many ballot initiatives being taken up in the states and the municipalities throughout the country that seek to change the ways their respective states and local governments draw political districts,” Lowenthal said. “Many of these voter-led initiatives are following California’s framework, implementing independent redistricting commissions.”