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The Judges and the Gerrymander

by Richard Esenberg

Courts should not enter a partisan debate

Democrats know that they have a problem. As our country has become more politically polarized, we have increasingly sorted ourselves geographically. As Michael Barone has noted, “Democratic voting groups — blacks, Hispanics (in many states), and gentry liberals — tend to be clustered in most central cities, many sympathetic suburbs, and most university towns, while Republican voters are spread more evenly around the rest of the country.” We see this after every election cycle in maps depicting outcomes by county that show America as a sea of red with islands of blue. Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote for president, she carried only 487 of America’s approximately 3,100 counties.

Given that we elect the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures in single-member, winner-take-all districts, the geographic concentration of Democratic votes gives Republicans a natural advantage in legislative races. After the elections in November 2016, the GOP controlled 67 of the nation’s 98 partisan legislative chambers. In the face of this handicap, Democrats have turned to the courts, arguing that Republican success is the result of — or at least enhanced by — partisan gerrymandering.

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