Self-Restraint or Judicial Disregard: Reviewing the Supreme Court’s Answer to the Political Question of Partisan Gerrymandering

In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its judgment in Rucho v. Common Cause, the Court’s latest foray into the decisive issue of partisan gerrymandering. As a tool for politicians and elected officials to manipulate the construction of state legislative and federal congressional districts, partisan gerrymandering has drawn the ire of the public for years. Nonetheless, five Justices in Rucho determined that because the authority to redraw districts is commonly the province of those closest to the political process, any inquiry by federal courts would present the political question of whether the partisan gerrymander went too far. The Court noted that because such a finding is assessed by only political standards and not judicially manageable standards, partisan gerrymandering claims constitute a political question and thus are nonjusticiable in federal court. In other words, the Court asserted judicial restraint to prevent any federal court from adjudicating claims of unlawful partisan gerrymandering in the future. However, the Court’s decision was instead judicial disregard of the judiciary’s duty to protect individual rights from government intrusion—namely, the right to vote. Because extreme partisan gerrymandering distorts the essence of American democracy, and in light of the substantial obstacles resting with the alternatives to federal court, the Rucho decision was premature and undermines the public’s faith in both elections and the judiciary moving forward. Therefore, the Court should reexamine its decision in Rucho and again hold that partisan gerrymandering is justiciable in federal court.