U.S. Electoral Map Bias May Worsen as Gerrymandering Battle Shifts to States

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that federal judges have no power to police partisan gerrymandering – the practice of manipulating electoral district boundaries for political gain – likely will embolden politicians to pursue more extreme efforts free from the fear of judicial interference, experts said.

“We’ll see more states doing more bad stuff,” said University of California at Irvine election law expert Rick Hasen.

The court’s 5-4 decision on Thursday, powered by its conservative majority in a ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, to close federal courthouse doors to partisan gerrymandering legal challenges shifts the focus of countering electoral map bias to the states.

Election reformers now face a limited menu of options, all of which face potential obstacles: voter ballot initiatives, lawsuits filed in state courts and congressional legislation.

“The hope from the reform groups was that you would just be able to wave a wand over the entire country and fix all the gerrymanders,” said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida expert on U.S. elections. “Roberts said the battle that was in the states will stay in the states.”