Activists Demonstrate Outside Supreme Court As Court Hears Case To Challenging Practice Of Partisan Gerrymandering WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03: Plaintiff Bill Whitford speaks outside of The United States Supreme Court after an oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford to call for an end to partisan gerrymandering on October 3, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Activists demonstrate outside the Supreme Court during hearings on partisan gerrymandering. Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

As discussed on this week's Blabbermouth podcast, on Tuesday the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on what many be the important decision since Citizen's United, or, for that matter, Bush v. Gore. In the case, Gill v. Whitford, the court is being asked to decide whether or not Wisconsin’s electoral maps are the product of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. It's a very, very big deal.

Partisan gerrymandering is when politicians—who, for some damn reason, are in charge of this process—use demographic data to draw congressional districts in their favor. This can lead to some really crazy-looking maps, like District 12 in North Carolina (a state whose congressional map was ruled unconstitutional this year), which snakes up Interstate 85, connecting black communities and diluting their (largely Democratic) votes in the places where they actually live.

According to many political analysts and armchair pundits, gerrymandering was partly responsible for Republican legislative victories in 2016. (Along with, of course, sexism, racism, xenophobia, Russian trolls, Macedonian teens, the DNC, voter suppression, general malaise, a corrupt two-party system, Twitter, Facebook, Fox News, 4chan, America's fascination with fame, and "but her emails.")

While it isn't just Republicans who are guilty of partisan gerrymandering, they have used it more effectively in the past decade, and now, the GOP has huge advantages over Dems all across the country. After the 2016 election, for instance, an analysis by the Associated Press found that district maps advantaged Republicans in four times as many states as Democrats, including in battleground states like North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Virginia—all of which had congressional maps drawn by Republicans. And in Wisconsin, where Gill v. Whitford originates, Republicans won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote in 2012—less than half—but they still claimed 60 out of 99 congressional seats. In 2016, Republicans got the same percentage of the vote—still less than half—but this time they won 64 out of 99 seats.

Gerrymandering is pernicious. It's a perfectly legal way to suppress votes—no Russian hackers needed—because it pre-determines the outcomes of elections and erodes faith in democracy. What's the point of showing up at the polls if your vote literally doesn't count? It's become such a problem that even some Republicans are fighting back, like former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said outside the Supreme Court Tuesday: "Congress would never ever fix this problem because they have one interest and one interest only, and this is to stay in power, no matter what the cost."


He's right: Congress won't fix his problem because gerrymandering allows incumbents to draw legislative maps that guarantee that they keep their jobs. But the Supreme Court could. Will they, or will they legitimize this undemocratic process? A decision is expected next summer.