In today’s political environment, where people cheer for political parties like they were sports teams, it would be easy to dismiss a gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin as just another partisan issue.
In this case, don’t be a cheerleader: If the Supreme Court makes the right call, it could mark the first step at undoing today’s poisonous partisan atmosphere.
Republicans and Democrats alike should be intensely interested in the Wisconsin case picked up by the Supreme Court, set to be argued this fall. If the court upholds a federal order to redraw Wisconsin’s districts for the 2018 elections, every American could win, no matter what party they favor.
The Wisconsin case involves how Republicans in charge of redistricting after the 2010 census packed as many Democrats as possible into the fewest number of districts, which left more districts across the state for Republicans to win. In November a three-judge federal court struck down the districts, in place since 2013.
Gerrymandering is nothing new. The process of forming oddly shaped electoral districts in the aim of helping parties remain in power was first named in 1812, and the Supreme Court has consistently ruled against it.
The Wisconsin case is historic because it represents the first time the Supreme Court could strike down a map for strictly political reasons. It could set a precedent for similarly strange districts across the country.
Here’s why the party affiliation of the case is irrelevant: The court could have easily picked up similar cases in either Democratic-dominated Maryland or Republican-ruled North Carolina. Both parties do it.
Gerrymandering can even be seen in Missouri’s districts, where the 5th and 6th districts tangle around Kansas City and the 3rd district wraps tentacles toward the Mississippi River around the 1st and 2nd districts.
When elections are easier for candidates based on party affiliation, they don’t work as hard for the entire range of party representation. It makes it easier for them to stick to a talking point or party line, instead of what’s best for their constituents.
We don’t think it’s a coincidence that, as districts have grown more according to political voting instead of geographic neighborhoods, our elected officials have lost the ability to compromise. By upholding the Wisconsin case, the Supreme Court could set a precedent that moves the country back to geographical lines, not party lines.