Partisan Gerrymandering as a Threat to Multiracial Democracy
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
In Common Cause v. Rucho, the Supreme Court initiated an era of redistricting without restraint. The Court opened the door to state legislatures to engage in the most extreme partisan gerrymandering in American history. As states redistrict after the 2020 census, many will focus on gerrymandering's threat to fair partisan representation at the state and national level.
In this Essay, I argue that such gerrymandering poses a greater potential threat to America's multi-racial democratic project. Gerrymandering's threat to the multi-racial democratic project arises from burgeoning white identity politics and the Republican Party's embrace of such politics. That Republican Party controls most of the state legislatures responsible for redistricting. And those legislatures have drawn a disproportionate number of districts that are not only majority Republican but also include a high number of Americans who see multi-racial democracy as a threat and seek to counter the inclusive representation of minority interests.
In this Essay, I draw from the Supreme Court's racial gerrymandering doctrine to identify the threat to multi-racial democracy from partisan gerrymandering. I argue that the race-based representation the Supreme Court once feared would arise from the state's use of race to draw district lines is more properly associated with the Republican Party's use of partisanship to draw district lines that will inevitably reinforce white identity politics. Thus, if the Court seeks to avoid representatives' race-based neglect of their constituents, which threatens to undermine the multi-racial democratic project, it will need to revive a role for itself in policing partisan gerrymandering.