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A Huge Win for Constitutional Majoritarianism

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Yes, it is also a big win for the GOP, and Tom DeLay’s legacy is secure, as is the House majority in all probability if it continues to prosecute the war and defend its conduct.

But it is primarily a win for the control of political line-drawing by legislative boundries:

“We reject the statewide challenge to Texas redistricting as an unconstitutional political gerrymander,” Kennedy wrote.

If representative government means anything, it means that elected officials make decisions on these matters, not judges beyond the recall of voters.

The opinions are here.

Other key portions of Kennedy’s opinion:

That the federal courts sometimes are required to order legislative redistricting, however, doesnot shift the primary locus of responsibility….Quite apart from the risk of acting without a legislature’sexpertise, and quite apart from the difficulties a courtfaces in drawing a map that is fair and rational, see id., at 414′”415, the obligation placed upon the Federal Judiciaryis unwelcome because drawing lines for congressional districts is one of the most significant acts a State can perform to ensure citizen participation in republican self-governance. That Congress is the federal body explicitly given constitutional power over elections is also a noteworthy statement of preference for the democratic process. As the Constitution vests redistricting responsibilities foremost in the legislatures of the States and in Congress, alawful, legislatively enacted plan should be preferable to one drawn by the courts.


In sum, we disagree with appellants’ view that a legislature’s decision to override a valid, court-drawn plan mid-decade is sufficiently suspect to give shape to a reliable standard for identifying unconstitutional political gerrymanders. We conclude that appellants have established no legally impermissible use of political classifications. For this reason, they state no claim on which relief may begranted for their statewide challenge.

The Court’s direction on the non-constitutional claims means some minor redrawing of boundries:

The districts in south and west Texas will have to be redrawn to remedy the violation in District 23, and we have no cause to passon the legitimacy of a district that must be changed.

But this is not the key portion of the decision. The decision today protects the role of state legislatures and of the voters who elect them against interference by federal courts except when uncosntitutional standards such as race are employed in the drawing of district lines.


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