Democratic presidential candidates reacted with disappointment on Thursday after the Supreme Court gave lawmakers the green light to gerrymander district maps.
The ruling dealt a devastating blow to voting rights groups who say the practice of drawing districts to suit a particular party or candidate threatens the very foundations of democracy and often disproportionately affects voters of color.
“Politicians shouldn’t be able to pick their voters, voters should choose their representatives,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter. “The Supreme Court’s gerrymandering decision will have drastic consequences for the future of our nation,” she said, adding that she would work to ban gerrymandering as president.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reacted similarly, saying he would also work to eliminate the partisan practice from the Oval Office.
“Voters should be able to choose their politicians, not the other way around,” he said on Twitter.
Several of the more than two dozen 2020 candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have also voiced support for legislation that would end gerrymandering as part of plans to defend fair elections.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his 5-4 majority decision that the question of what constitutes gerrymandering is beyond the court’s reach, because there are no adequate standards by which to judge which maps are and are not acceptable. The court’s four other conservative justices voted with him.
Writing for the minority, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that “[t]he practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government,” and emerging technology will only make the problem worse.
“Part of the Court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations,” she wrote. “None is more important than free and fair elections. With respect but deep sadness, I dissent.”
In its other major ruling of the day, the Supreme Court prevented, for now, the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the census. It was a partial victory for states, cities and civil rights groups who say that adding a citizenship question would result in a less accurate census, as fewer noncitizens would be likely to participate.