Washington (AP) – The Supreme Court says federal courts have no role to play in policing political districts drawn for partisan gain. The decision could embolden political line-drawing for partisan gain when state lawmakers undertake the next round of redistricting following the 2020 census.
The justices said by a 5-4 vote Thursday that claims of partisan gerrymandering do not belong in federal court. The court’s conservative, Republican-appointed majority says that voters and elected officials should be the arbiters of what is a political dispute.
The court rejected challenges to Republican-drawn congressional districts in North Carolina and a Democratic district in Maryland.
Two issues that could determine the distribution of political power for the next decade await resolution on the Supreme Court’s final day of decisions before a long summer break.
Chief Justice John Roberts could well be the author of decisions on both politically charged topics Thursday, whether to allow a citizenship question on the 2020 census and place limits on drawing electoral districts for partisan gain. The census results and the rules by which political districts will be redrawn following the next population count help determine how districts are drawn and where.
Decisions in those cases, which pit five conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents against four liberals appointed by Democrats, could amplify criticism of the court as a political institution, despite Roberts’ repeated efforts to combat that perception.