As Hans von Spakovsky explains very well in the SCOTUSblog article “Online VRA symposium: The constitutionality of Section 5 comes to the Supremes again,” it’s high past time for the Supreme Court to review Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was created shortly after the Civil Rights movement to ensure that no racism would take place during the redistricting process. In order to promote fair redistricting, it lays out guidelines for what constitutes gerrymandering and what is considered acceptable in the world of re-drawing constitutional, senatorial, and state legislatorial voting districts. It also requires several states (mostly Southern) to submit their redistricting plans for review in order to ensure that no gerrymandering, racially-charged or otherwise, is taking place.
The case that the Court will most likely grant cert to is Nix v. Holder, and the decision can’t come soon enough. Spakovsky explains why the current redistricting process is out of date, how Section 5 is no longer necessary in its present form, and exactly how the Court might rule in one of the several VRA cases in the pipeline. Having been intimately involved with the redistricting process myself over the past few years (forgive me for not mentioning my employer), I can attest to the fact that our current system of redistricting is broken. Redistricting, at least at the congressional level, is riddled with partisanship, racism, and classism. It’s all about which side can get the most votes out of a district, and sometimes the results disenfranchise various segments of the population. In fixing redistricting, though, I don’t think we should write out Section 5 altogether. Oftentimes its regulations prove useful and help keep certain districts fair. It provides a set of concrete rules that, at least nominally, every state has to follow. Right now, it’s doing more harm than good, but if properly updated, it could provide much-needed reform to an otherwise toxic process.