VCU expert explains sweeping impact of Supreme Court’s partisan gerrymandering decision

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The Supreme Court building located in Washington, D.C.
The Supreme Court building located in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images)

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in two partisan gerrymandering cases — stemming from challenges to district maps in North Carolina and Maryland — finding that partisan gerrymandering is a “political question” and that federal courts do not have a role in addressing it.

Alex Keena, Ph.D.
Alex Keena, Ph.D.

Alex Keena, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Humanities and Sciences and co-author of “Gerrymandering in America” (Cambridge University Press), as well as a number of articles on campaign financing and partisan gerrymandering, said the court’s opinion will have a sweeping impact on U.S. politics and government.

“This decision may be one of the most consequential court decisions in 21st century American politics because it forecloses the possibility that citizens can challenge unfair districting maps in the federal courts on the grounds that they favor one party over another,” Keena said.

“It also means that political parties are free to manipulate legislative districting to advance nakedly political ends, and it further intensifies the battle for control over state government in the run up to redistricting in 2021,” he said. “The irony in the decision is that the Court applied the ‘political question doctrine’ that was established in Baker v. Carr, which was the case that originally gave citizens a tool for challenging gerrymandering in the 1960s.”