The Gerrymander Gazette

Michigan’s Good Example

Recently Michigan’s Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, approved a petition for a referendum vote in the November election for the creation of an independent bipartisan commission empowered to draw future maps of the state’s election districts. Would that Indiana were a referendum state! But our legislators are real people, with real addresses and phone numbers of which we should take full advantage to let our legislators know what we think about gerrymandering and the politicians who support it. Politely, of course. Further details about the Michigan referendum can be found in a report in the Detroit News.

Kagan to the Rescue

SCOTUS’ 7-2 decision in the Wisconsin gerrymander case (Gill v. Whitford, 2018) may seem worse than it should. We need to understand that the plaintiffs were not told that their case had no merit (except by dissenters Thomas and Gorsuch), but that it might be heard again if strengthened. And in her brilliant concurring opinion, joined by Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Breyer, Elena Kagan earned a hero medal by showing exactly how to make it stronger—even in ways perhaps not imagined by the plaintiffs. For an excellent account of her opinion, and possible side effects on Citizens United and Kennedy’s continued presence on SCOTUS, see this June 18 Bloomberg News article by Noah Feldman.

This political cartoon of “The Gerry-Mander” led to the coining of the term Gerrymander. The district depicted was created by the Massachusetts legislature to favor the incumbent party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists in 1812. It was originally published in the Boston Centinel, 1812 and attributed to Elkanah Tisdale (1771-1835) (often falsely attributed to Gilbert Stuart). The image is in the public domain.