The “Unwelcome Obligation”: Why Neither State nor Federal Courts Should Draw District Lines

February 28, 2018

In recent years, the judiciary’s inability to hold state legislatures accountable for partisan gerrymanders has encouraged state governments to draw legislative and congressional district lines with high partisan advantage, thereby allowing a political party to acquire seats in numbers disproportionate to their popular support. In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari on two partisan gerrymandering cases: Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone. Although the Court might articulate a judicially manageable standard to determine when a districting plan is politically fair, other methods to prevent federal courts from creating district maps that perpetuate partisan bias exist.

This Note examines and critiques current debates regarding the judiciary’s role in redistricting and adjudicating partisan gerrymandering claims. It argues that independent redistricting commissions—enacted through state voter initiatives or referendums—should replace federal courts’ authority to develop redistricting plans

March 2018

No. 4