Redistricting and the Coming Collisions Between Partisans and Courts

September 8, 2021

As state courts prepare to weigh in on accusations of gerrymandering, lawmakers across the country are hard at work trying to change those courts’ ideological balance.

With new Census data in hand, legislatures across the country are already at work redrawing election districts, and many of them will try to skew those districts to benefit their party’s congressional and legislative candidates. Inevitably, voters and party organizations will ask state courts to decide whether the gerrymandered districts violate their respective state constitutions.

The previous redistricting cycle resulted in litigation in many states, and a few state courts did order new districts. The new districts ordered by courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, for example, were crucial to Democrats maintaining their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Similar lawsuits are expected this year in states where one party controls the redistricting process but not the state’s supreme court. In many of these states, legislators have proposed radical changes to judicial elections, sometimes with the explicit goal of changing the ideological direction of the courts that will likely rule their new election maps. Voters in some Midwestern states have approved new redistricting reforms, and the high courts tasked with interpreting the new rules are facing pivotal elections to determine control of those courts.

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