Arnold Schwarzenegger called on the Supreme Court to “terminate” gerrymandering. He was among the hundreds of protesters for fair elections gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court building as the court heard arguments about partisan gerrymandering on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
Partisan gerrymandering is the practice of drawing legislative and congressional district lines to maximize and perpetuate the power of an incumbent political party. The practice takes its name from early 19th-century Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry, who developed a bizarre redistricting plan to keep his political cronies in power. According to legend, when a political opponent described the shape of one of the districts as resembling the shape of a salamander, a colleague replied, “No, it looks more like a Gerrymander.”
The legal scholars and voting-rights activists who brought the case, Gill v. Whitford, have asserted that Wisconsin’s state senate and assembly district maps were rigged by Gov. Scott Walker’s political allies to lock in the majorities they gained in the 2010 election. Republicans gerrymandered legislative district lines so aggressively that in the next election, even though Wisconsin Democrats won 174,000 more votes than Republicans in races for state assembly seats, Republicans won a 60-39 majority in the chamber.
The decision will be far-reaching. In addition to Wisconsin, traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their national or state races. In the 2016 election, 46 percent of North Carolina voters cast their ballots for Democrats, yet only 24 percent ended up with Democratic congressmen.
Analysts suggest that Justice Anthony Kennedy may provide the critical swing vote of the divided court to determine whether political gerrymanders cross a constitutional line.
View Jeff Malet’s photos from the Oct. 3 protests and speeches in front of the Supreme Court by clicking on the photo icons below.