When it comes to elections, it’s hard to decide which creates more controversy in the United States: the Electoral College system used to elect the president or the district voting system used to elect federal and state representatives. Most of the country thinks both are bad. But the Supreme Court can make them both worse with the same stone.
In the next judicial year, which begins in October, the Supreme Court will decide Moore v. Harper, in which North Carolina’s Republican politicians ask the court (or its conservative majority) to verify the “doctrine of a free state legislature.” If the court accepts the request, crucial election issues will no longer be resolved by the judiciary and will be placed in the hands of each state’s legislative branch.
Apparently, state judges don’t enjoy this. Hence, the Chief Justices of the 50 states filed a petition to form the “Conference of Chief Justices”. A brief summary Both parties in the Supreme Court urged ministers to reject the demands of republican politicians.
According to the doctrine of free state legislatures, the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution “gives to state legislatures, not to state courts or other agencies, authority over election rules, including the drawing of district maps,” the Republican politicians argue in their petition.
Likewise, legislatures have the power to reject the election of representatives to the Electoral College, traditionally formed by the party that wins the presidential election in the state. For this, it is sufficient to indicate (or discover) grounds for suspicion of fraud. And, in that case, the majority party in the legislature would give itself the right to choose a group of delegates from its state to vote for a presidential candidate in the Electoral College.
The case before the Supreme Court highlights the problem with district maps, as a district map drawn by the North Carolina Legislature was struck down in February by the state’s highest court on the grounds that it was intentionally designed to harm the Democratic Party. Dilutes the “fundamental right of democratic voters to equal suffrage.”
The Chief Justices’ Conference contends A brief summaryThe U.S. Constitution does not prevent state courts from examining whether such maps violate the state constitution.
“Conference respectfully requests that this Court clarify that the Elections Clause does not prevent state courts from exercising their traditional role in adjudicating election laws consistent with state constitutions,” the petition said. “When a state court reviews state laws, it is acting in its judicial role, not a legislative role. That somehow allows the separation of powers to be preserved.”
Drawing maps of constituencies in the U.S. every 10 years based on the last census allows for electoral manipulation because people are concentrated in boxes of cities — often white or black or Latino or African-American. Gays or Asians, etc. Each is predominantly Republican or Democrat, and the parties learn from polls where their voters live.
For example, a white, middle-class area is considered predominantly Republican, while a black area is predominantly Democratic. Thus, when the majority party in the legislature draws district maps, it tends to do so in a way that guarantees the election of more federal and state representatives than the opposing party.
There are two main tricks to doing this. One of them is called crack (split), which divides a large black area (for example) into two or three smaller areas and joins each of them with a large white area, creating two or three districts, all with Republican majorities.
The other is called tantra Packing (packaging), which consists of concentrating all voters who are said to be Democratic voters in a single district, so that two, three, or four neighboring districts are predominantly Republican. The examples refer to the Republican Party, but Democrats do the same when they are in power in the state.
These electoral maneuvers are commonly known in the United States as “gerrymandering” (or “gerrymander”). The name is a portmanteau of the name Jerry and Salamander (Salamander). In 1812, then-Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts drew a map of the constituencies that favored his party. A Boston Gazette cartoonist attributed the drawing’s appearance to a mythical salamander and named it the “Gerrymander”.
Despite constant derision, such tactics are still used to this day and give electoral jurisprudence a lot of work. Some courts have rejected the drawings and ordered that they be redone or that an impartial panel of experts be responsible for drawing them. Some courts allow them.
If the Supreme Court, with its conservative-Republican majority, listens to the demands of North Carolina politicians, the power of state legislatures to manipulate elections to keep one party in power will become a standard in American elections.
João Ozorio de Melo is a reporter for the magazine legal advisor In America.
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