Cartoon by Steve Sack

Cartoon by Steve Sack

Federal courts aren’t the right place to settle partisan gerrymandering disputes, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

The high court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland, although both maps were “highly partisan by any measure.”

“We have never struck down a partisan gerrymander as unconstitutional — despite various requests over the past 45 years,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.

The ruling does not mean American voters must suffer under skewed congressional and legislative districts, designed to benefit one party or the other. It leaves the issue open to congressional action. HR 1, the so-called For the People Act of 2019, would reform election and voting laws nationwide, including rules to eliminate partisan gerrymandering.

The proposal would require independent, citizen-led redistricting commissions at the state level to draw Congressional electoral districts. Several states, including California, Colorado, Michigan and Utah, have already established transparent, multipartisan, electoral district reform.

The state commissions would be required to come up with congressional district boundaries that have roughly equal total population; comply with existing federal laws; provide racial, ethnic and language minorities with an equal opportunity to participate in the political process; respect communities of interest, neighborhoods and political subdivisions as far as is practical; and not favor or disfavor any political party.

For the People applies only to congressional district maps, but a quick look at Oklahoma’s legislative boundaries makes it obvious that the reform needs to apply there, too.

Endorsed by the League of Women Voters, HR 1 includes additional important election reforms, including internet voter registration, a prohibition of partisan voting roll purges, voter intimidation protections and greater transparency in political contributions. The bill has passed the U.S. House of Representatives but has stalled in the Senate.

It’s time to eliminate partisan gerrymandering in American representative government. It warps the democratic process and promotes citizen cynicism. The Supreme Court refused to fix the situation. The U.S. Senate must.

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