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Lowenthal expresses disappointment in SCOTUS punt on partisan gerrymandering cases

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Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) issued a statement Monday morning expressing disappointment in that day’s two U.S. Supreme Court rulings, which put off a “much needed” decision on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering. The high court’s two rulings did not address the merits of the gerrymandering issues behind either Gil v. Whitford or Benisek v. Lamone but did return the Gil v. Whitford case to a lower federal court for further consideration.

“Congressional maps drawn across the nation in 2010 were some of the most partisan ever devised,” Lowenthal said. “Not only will the software used in packing and cracking political boundaries improve, but today’s decision does nothing to prevent political parties from gerrymandering. While I am disappointed in the overall ruling, I am hopeful a reconsideration by the lower court in Wisconsin will lead to a decision, either in Wisconsin or at the Supreme Court next year, on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering. But, we are running out of time. If something isn’t done before the upcoming 2020 decennial census, the maps that we will see some state legislatures draw will continue the legacy of partisan gerrymandering and will be potentially among the most undemocratic ever imagined.”

Lowenthal agreed with the dissenting opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan, which stated in part, “Partisan gerrymandering, as this Court has recognized, is ‘incompatible with democratic principles.’ More effectively every day, that practice enables politicians to entrench themselves in power against the people’s will. And only the courts can do anything to remedy the problem, because gerrymanders benefit those who control the political branches.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla also issued a statement of disappointment in the Supreme Court’s refusal to act on the two cases.

“It is disappointing that the Supreme Court has punted on its responsibility to address the constitutionality of manipulative gerrymandering practices that favor one party over another and dilute our representative democracy,” Padilla said. “By not addressing the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering, they are allowing state after state to continue to draw lines in pursuit of political power instead of fairness. This is a bad decision for fair representation and a bad decision for voting rights.”

Padilla said the lack of action is even more troubling considering the already problematic preparations underway for the 2020 Census.

“Concerns about lack of funding, testing and leadership [have] cast doubt over the 2020 Census, which will be used for redistricting purposes in 2021,” Padilla said. “Faulty Census data combined with partisan gerrymandering will undermine voting rights, the reapportionment process and lead to even more partisanship in Congress.”

Lowenthal indicated there will be more such cases coming before the nation’s highest court.

“It’s only a matter of time before the issue of gerrymandering is heard again by the Supreme Court,” he said. “The abuses of partisan and discriminatory gerrymandering must be brought to an end, sooner rather than later.”

In September 2017, Lowenthal led the bipartisan Member of Congress amicus brief to the Supreme Court for the Gill v. Whitford case. Further, he joined with a number of colleagues in signing onto the bipartisan Member of Congress amicus brief in the Benisek v. Lamone case.

In the Gill v. Whitford case, a group of Wisconsin voters in 2015 challenged the Wisconsin State Legislature’s 2011 redistricting map in federal court as an excessively partisan gerrymander barred by the Constitution. A lower court ruling last year agreed with the plaintiffs and found the map violated both the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and the plaintiffs’ First Amendment freedom of association. In the Benisek v. Lamone case– the plaintiffs were a group of Maryland voters who challenged the congressional redistricting plan for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District that was enacted by the Maryland General Assembly following the 2010 Census. The plaintiffs in the case claim that it is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, violating their right to representation and political association.

“I truly believe that voters should pick their politicians, not the other way around,” Lowenthal said. “Voters should be guaranteed choices at the ballot box, not treated like political pawns to keep entrenched power embedded. Guardrails must be put on the redistricting process, otherwise, politicians will take advantage of the system and the result will be a continuation of the unfair, unconstitutional practice of gerrymandering. The issue of partisan gerrymandering isn’t simply a tool being used by one party, it is used by the party in power at the time of redistricting–Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter.”

Lowenthal introduced legislation while serving in the California Legislature to stop politicians from drawing their own legislative districts. That legislation served as the precursor to what eventually would become the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, according to Lowenthal’s office.

When he joined Congress in 2013, his first piece of introduced legislation was the Let the People Draw the Lines Act of 2013, which would have required each state to establish an independent redistricting commission similar to California’s redistricting commission.

In 2015, Lowenthal led the bipartisan Member of Congress amicus brief for Supreme Court case Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, supporting the right of citizens to establish independent redistricting commissions. Lowenthal is also the coauthor of the bipartisan H.Res.283, which expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that congressional redistricting should be reformed to remove political gerrymandering.

Source: Lowenthal’s office

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Lowenthal expresses disappointment in SCOTUS punt on partisan gerrymandering cases