Congressman Lowenthal Disappointed By SCOTUS Punt on Partisan Gerrymandering Cases

June 18, 2018
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) expressed his extreme disappointment in today's two U.S. Supreme Court rulings, which put off a much-needed decision on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering. The high court's two rulings did not address the merits of the gerrymandering issues behind either Gill v. Whitford or Benisek v. Lamone, but did return the Gill v. Whitford case to a lower federal court for further consideration.

"Congressional maps drawn across the nation in 2010 were some of the most partisan ever devised. Not only will the software used in packing and cracking political boundaries improve, but today's decision does nothing to prevent political parties from gerrymandering," Congressman Lowenthal said. "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. But, we are running out of time. If something isn't done before the upcoming 2020 decennial census, the maps that we will see some state legislatures draw will continue the legacy of partisan gerrymandering and will be potentially among the most undemocratic ever imagined."

The Congressman agreed with the dissenting opinion written by Justice Kagan, which stated in part, "Partisan gerrymandering, as this Court has recognized, is ‘incompatible with democratic principles.' More effectively every day, that practice enables politicians to entrench themselves in power against the people's will. And only the courts can do anything to remedy the problem, because gerrymanders benefit those who control the political branches."

In September 2017, Congressman Lowenthal lead the bipartisan Member of Congress amicus brief to the Supreme Court for the Gill v. Whitford case. Further, he joined with a number of colleagues in signing onto the bipartisan Member of Congress amicus brief in the Benisek v. Lamone case.

In the Gill v. Whitford case, a group of Wisconsin voters in 2015 challenged the Wisconsin state legislature's 2011 redistricting map in federal court as an excessively partisan gerrymander barred by the Constitution. A lower court ruling last year agreed with the plaintiffs and found the map violated both the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause and the plaintiffs' First Amendment freedom of association. In the Benisek v. Lamone case— the plaintiffs were a group of Maryland voters who challenged the congressional redistricting plan for Maryland's 6th Congressional District which was enacted by the Maryland General Assembly following the 2010 Census. The plaintiffs' in the case claim that it is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, violating their right to representation and political association.

"I truly believe that voters should pick their politicians, not the other way around," Congressman Lowenthal said. "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." Congressman Lowenthal said. "The issue of partisan gerrymandering isn't simply a tool being used by one party, it is used by the party in power at the time of redistricting--Democrat, Republican, it doesn't matter."

A longtime-champion of redistricting reform and the end of gerrymandering, Congressman Lowenthal introduced legislation while serving in the California Legislature to stop politicians from drawing their own legislative districts. This legislation served as the precursor to what eventually would become the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

When he joined Congress in 2013, his first piece of introduced legislation was the Let the People Draw the Lines Act of 2013, which would have required each state to establish an independent redistricting commission similar to California's redistricting commission.

In 2015, Congressman Lowenthal lead the bipartisan Member of Congress amicus brief for Supreme Court case Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, supporting the right of citizens to establish independent redistricting commissions. Congressman Lowenthal is also the coauthor of the bipartisan H.Res.283, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that congressional redistricting should be reformed to remove political gerrymandering.

Click here to read the Supreme Court ruling on Gill v. Whitford.

Click here to read the Supreme Court ruling on Benisek v. Lamone.