The Supreme Court has dismissed the theory in previous rulings as recently as 2019.
Chief Justice John Roberts implicitly ruled out support for the theory in a landmark 2019 decision, Rucho v. Common Cause, which declared partisan gerrymanders to be political matters not within the jurisdiction of the federal courts.
“Provisions in state statutes and constitutions can provide standards and guidance for state courts to apply” to ban partisan cards, he wrote, citing a voter-approved amendment to the Florida Constitution. which prohibits maps drawn with the intent to favor or oppose a policy. to party.
The court flatly rejected the theory, albeit by a 5-4 vote, in a 2015 ruling upholding an Arizona ballot initiative that took the power to remove political cards from the Legislative Assembly and handed it over to an independent redistricting commission. He also did so in a 1932 case involving the Governor of Minnesota’s veto over that state’s congressional maps, as well as in a 1913 case involving the Ohio House seat map.
Approval of the theory would remove the last legal obstacles to gerrymandering House seats.
Following the 2019 Supreme Court ruling in the Rucho case, state constitutions and courts have stepped in to regulate partisan cards in some states. More recently, the Supreme Courts dismissed as partisan gerrymanders the maps drawn by the legislatures of Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Ohio after the 2020 census. The high courts of Pennsylvania and Virginia have also played a role in changing the maps of these states.
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State Supreme Courts have generally relied on provisions in most state constitutions guaranteeing “free and fair elections”, a clause that does not exist in the federal Constitution, and on freedom of speech and meetings that have been interpreted as stronger than the federal guarantees. The independent legislature theory would remove any role for state constitutions in regulating political maps.
Many states have set up redistricting commissions to draw political maps, though only a handful — including Arizona, California, Colorado and Michigan — are substantially independent of the influence of legislatures. According to numerous expert assessments, such commissions would also be threatened, if not canceled altogether, if the theory were to be adopted.
Congress and the federal courts would retain power over election laws.
The Constitution gives Congress the power to enact federal election laws and override state laws, in the same Article I clause that vests election authority in state legislatures. And he exercised that power forcefully, including by enacting the Voting Rights Act of 1965. During this century, however, partisan gridlock limited the House and Senate to relatively minor adjustments to election laws. Greater efforts to strengthen voting rights and ban gerrymanders have been blocked by the Republican opposition.