Leading Republicans Urge Supreme Court to Rein in Partisan Gerrymandering

Sep 6, 2017
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Kasich, Dole, McCain, Schwarzenegger, Meadows among signers to “friend-of-the-court” briefs

WASHINGTON – Leading Republicans signed onto “friend-of-the-court” briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to set a limit on extreme partisan gerrymandering in the landmark partisan gerrymandering case Gill v. Whitford argued by the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and co-counsel. The case will be heard at the Supreme Court on October 3.

“This case is long overdue,” said former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) and Senate Republican Whip from 1985 to 1995. “Quite literally, gerrymandering is killing our system. Most Americans think politicians are corrupt, and when they’re rigging maps to pick their own constituents, they’re giving them reason to believe it. What’s more, there’s zero trust between the parties in Congress today so almost nothing gets done. When the only threat a politician faces is a partisan primary, it’s no surprise everyone on both sides is playing to the extremes. We can, and we must, do better.”  

Wisconsin’s partisan gerrymander – created in 2011 by legislative aides and hired consultants in a secret room in a private law office – employed the latest mapping technology and data analysis to create a district plan that is one of the most extremely gerrymandered state legislative plans in the last four decades. As a result, for the first time in 31 years, a lower court – after a four-day trial – struck down the plan as an unconstitutional gerrymander.

“I’m pleased – but not surprised – to see many of America’s most accomplished Republican leaders urging the Supreme Court to rein in excessive partisan gerrymandering,” said Trevor Potter, president of CLC, and former Republican Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “They know that the legitimacy of all elected officials comes from being freely chosen by voters, not by seizing power from voters to keep themselves in control. We are confident that when the justices see how pervasive and damaging this practice has become, the Supreme Court will adopt a clear legal standard that will ensure our democracy functions as it should.”

Appellees argue that Wisconsin's gerrymander violates both the Equal Protection Clause by diluting the electoral influence of a targeted group of voters, and the First Amendment, by penalizing these voters because of their political beliefs.

“The Framers intended the House of Representatives to be the ‘People’s House’ – an institution directly accountable to the electorate through frequent and competitive elections,” said Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), one of the current members of Congress who weighed in. “Extreme partisan redistricting undermines constituent-focused representation and forces lawmakers to ideological extremes, growing the divide of partisanship that grinds the gears of government to a halt. Basic limits on extreme gerrymandering will make Congress a more representative institution by giving the American People fewer politicians and more independent voices focused on serving.”

Two organizational partners, the Brennan Center for Justice and Common Cause, assisted in the  enlistment of signers and coordination of briefs. 

“It is time for the U.S. Supreme Court to make clear, as a matter of law, what most Americans consider a core value of self-governance: that voters should choose their representatives instead of party bosses choosing their voters,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “Extreme partisan gerrymandering is wrong and the court should rule it unconstitutional.” Hobert Flynn noted in Common Cause’s brief that Americans have been increasingly vocal in their opposition to partisan gerrymandering. “Elected officials from both parties are using these briefs to speak with one voice to increase competition and choice for voters,” she said.

Whitford is an historic opportunity for the Supreme Court to finally draw a clear line and root out extreme, unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders,” said Michael Li, senior counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “These gerrymanders undermine the accountability and representativeness at the heart of American democracy, and the problem has gotten so severe that it demands a solution. With a growing number of effective and reliable tools to enable the courts to identify extreme gerrymanders, we are hopeful that the Court will take this chance to eliminate egregious gerrymandering from our politics.”

In addition to briefs mentioned above, others were filed by historians, political scientists, geographers, civil rights leaders, law professors and others asking the court to affirm the lower court’s ruling and strike down Wisconsin’s mapping scheme.

Learn more about CLC’s efforts on behalf of the 12 plaintiffs in Whitford here.

Learn more about the redistricting process, how it works, and the everyday impacts of partisan gerrymandering on our democracy here.

Private counsel working with CLC in representing the appellees includes Douglas M. Poland of Rathje & Woodward, Peter G. Earle, Michele L. Odorizzi of Mayer Brown, Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos of the University of Chicago Law School and Jessica R. Amunson of Jenner & Block.

Noteworthy Republican signers include:

 

  • Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV)
  • Congressman Rod Blum (R-IA)
  • William Brock, former U.S. Senator (R-TN), former chair of the Republican National Committee
  • Tom Campbell, former Member of Congress (R-CA)
  • Mike Castle, former Governor of Delaware and Member of Congress
  • Rod Chandler, former Member of Congress (R-WA)
  • Bill Clinger, former Member of Congress (R-PA)
  • Congressman Michael Coffman (R-CO)
  • Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)
  • Jack Danforth, former U.S. Senator (R-MO) and former U.S. ambassador to the UN
  • Robert Dole, former Senate Majority and Minority Leader (R-KS), Republican nominee for president
  • Jim Douglas, retired Governor of Vermont
  • Jim Edgar, former Governor of Illinois
  • Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
  • Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD)
  • David Jolly, former Member of Congress (R-FL)
  • Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC)
  • Governor John Kasich of Ohio
  • Frank Keating, former Governor of Oklahoma
  • Richard Lugar, former U.S. Senator (R-IN)
  • Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
  • John McKernan, former Governor of Maine
  • Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus
  • Connie Morella, former Member of Congress (R-MD)
  • Bill Owens, former Governor of Colorado
  • John Porter, former Member of Congress (R-IL)
  • Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Governor of California
  • Claudine Schneider, former Member of Congress (R-RI)
  • Christopher Shays, former Member of Congress (R-CT)
  • Alan Simpson, former U.S. Senator and Senate Republican Whip (R-WY)
  • Peter Smith, former Member of Congress (R-VT)
  • Olympia Snowe, former U.S. Senator (R-ME)
  • Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO)
  • James Walsh, former Member of Congress (R-NY)
  • Zach Wamp, former Member of Congress (R-TN)
  • Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey
  • Corinne Wood, former Lieutenant Governor of Illinois

 

Noteworthy Quotes:

“For decades, leaders on both sides of the aisle adhered to the notion that partisanship stopped at the water’s edge,” said former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN). Unfortunately, today’s unrelenting partisanship on Capitol Hill means that that notion too often falls by the wayside. One of the causes of this dynamic is gerrymandering, whereby too many seats are safely controlled by one party or the other. For the good of our country, I urge the Supreme Court to take a stand and help curtail this practice.”

“Thirty years ago, my hero, Ronald Reagan, called partisan gerrymandering ‘antidemocratic and un-American,’” said former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA). “And it’s only gotten worse since then. It’s time for the Supreme Court to step up and rein in this corrosive, rigged practice that undermines our leaders’ ability to come together as Americans and solve our pressing challenges. When our average margin of victory in congressional races hit 37% last year, it should have been a wake-up call to all politicians to quit acting like banana republic dictators and allow fair elections with districts that represent the people, not the parties. Quite simply, gerrymandering must be terminated and the sooner the better.” 

“When I was in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans who cared deeply about issues often came together to figure out where they could agree in order to move the country forward,” said former U.S. Senator Jack Danforth (R-MO). Today, the center has collapsed and that’s come to a screeching halt. Extreme gerrymandering by both parties contributes mightily to the problem and reining it in must be part of the solution.” 

“The promise of the United States Congress is finding common ground to solve America’s greatest challenges,” said former Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). “Unprecedented levels of partisanship and polarization have degraded that promise and extreme partisan gerrymandering deserves a share of the blame. When the only races that matter are partisan primaries, there are regrettably no incentives to build consensus across the political aisle – which is the only way to solve problems. I encourage the Supreme Court to curb excessive partisan gerrymandering and help our Congress return to the problem-solving body our founders intended it to be.”

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Read the briefs:

  • Link to amicus brief filed by GOP statewide officials.
  • Link to amicus brief filed by bipartisan group of current and former members of Congress.
    Link to amicus brief filed by bipartisan group of 65 current and former state legislatures.
  • Link to amicus brief filed by Senators McCain and Whitehouse.

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