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No constitutional barriers to rigging voting districts, lawyer says

Politics

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — In Maryland, Democrats drew lines so Republicans couldn’t get elected.

And in South Carolina, Republicans did the same to Democrats.

In two separate cases that finally wound up in the Supreme Court, justices struck down lower court rulings that found the plans were unconstitutional. Basically, they said, it’s somebody else’s job to fix the question.

Attorney Bradley Schrager has represented the state Democratic party in redistricting cases before. He says there’s no law that makes partisan gerrymandering illegal.

“There’s nothing expressly in the constitution or otherwise that would make illegal gerrymandering strictly for partisan purposes, for example, just on the basis of how many Democrats, or how many Republicans, or even how many Independents or other parties live in a particular proposed district. So no, there is no sort of clear and express limit to that at the moment.”

In some cases, courts have an easier time deciding political maps are unconstitutional. A map with widely different populations can dilute votes, for example. Or one that divides a minority community into separate districts so members can’t elect a candidate of their choice might also violate the law.

But with political affiliation, there’s no protection in law, which is why the five justices in the majority in last week’s opinion said they not only couldn’t identify authority for the courts to intervene, but also didn’t know what standard to apply if they did.

Schrager said the issue becomes a question for state legislatures and voters to resolve.

“In the end it’s up to the voters. One of the lessons of last week’s Supreme Court opinion is that if you’re expecting the establishment itself to remake our political system, that’s a fool’s errand. It is up to the people and the voters. No one is going to organize for you for this purpose. If you want to change these things it starts with organizing and voting to change them yourselves. Because ultimately that’s where the responsibility’s going to lie.

The court’s ruling could have a big impact here in Nevada, when the 2021 Legislature draws new district lines for the state that will last for a decade. Last time, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a Democratic plan, and lines were drawn by a panel of special masters appointed by a court.

But this time, if Democrats control both houses and the governor’s mansion the way they do this year, it’s likely we’ll see a plan that favors their party.

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