Ruth Bader Ginsburg Says Effects Of Partisan Gerrymandering Aren't Good For Democracy

“It’s drawing a map so people think ‘Why bother voting?'"
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks to Georgetown University law students in Washington last week.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks to Georgetown University law students in Washington last week.
NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

A week before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a landmark case on how officials can draw electoral maps, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said people felt discouraged from voting because of the way districts were redrawn, something that was bad for democracy.

On Oct. 3, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a Wisconsin case in which the plaintiffs allege that Republican lawmakers violated the U.S. Constitution with redistricting that benefited their party in 2011. The Supreme Court has never said if that process, called partisan gerrymandering, violates the Constitution, but Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have joined in asking it to say it does. The court has treated gerrymandering based on race as a separate category and has struck down maps that have taken race into account too much when they were drawn and diminished the influence of certain groups of voters.

“It’s drawing a map so people think ‘Why bother voting? This is a secure Republican district or this is a secure Democratic district, so my vote doesn’t count.’ That’s not a good thing for democracy,” Ginsburg told CBS host Charlie Rose during an appearance at the 92nd Street Y in New York City on Tuesday.

The case, Gill v. Whitford, deals with Wisconsin Assembly districts. After imposing the new maps, Wisconsin Republicans won 60 of the state’s 99 legislative seats in 2012 but won just 48.6 percent of the statewide vote.

Ginsburg has said the case is perhaps the most important one the court faces this term.

A federal court in Wisconsin found the maps were unconstitutional, in part relying on a new method of analysis called the “efficiency gap” that attempts to quantify gerrymandering. The method has generated a considerable amount of excitement because it could offer justices a concrete standard by which they can determine if a gerrymander is unconstitutional. Justice Anthony Kennedy is expected to be the swing vote in the case and has said in the past that some standard may exist.

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