Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Fair Representation

The Supreme Court will be examining political issue that could change the way legislative lines are drawn across our country.

Gerrymandering is a term that arises from a district shaped like a salamander that was originally drawn during the 1810 term of Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry.  Today, legal experts are still divided on the racial and partisan considerations of that practice.

Recently, Justice Elena Kagan wrote an opinion for the majority of the Supreme Court regarding two congressional district maps in North Carolina, that holding those districts amounted to an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.  In reference to a 1993 court standard, she wrote: "A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a compelling reason."

The ruling was a victory for Democrats and civil rights groups who had challenged the North Carolina maps arguing that they unnecessarily packed African-Americans into two districts, which made it easier for African-Americans to re-elect incumbents to those two seats, but diluted their votes in surrounding areas.

The Supreme Court has a standard limiting over-reliance on race in map-drawing except under the most limited circumstances. 

Justin Levitt, a professor of law at Loyola Law School noted that the Supreme Court has never been successful in developing a test concerning the issue of partisan gerrymandering.  He wrote: "The court has said that too much partisanship is illegal, but it hasn't yet decided how much is too much."

In most states, the maps are drawn after by the party in power after each census, meaning neither party has a guarantee of controlling the districts indefinitely.  Levitt and others believe that the legislators in charge of drawing the maps have gone to new extremes impacting voters' right to fair representation under the First and Fourteenth Amendment.


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