Journalist Jason Zengerle is the 2019 winner of the Newhouse School’s Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting. The prize was awarded at a ceremony March 25 in Washington, D.C. NPR’s Lakshmi Singh ’94, an alumna of the Newhouse School,…
Gerrymandering: foxes guarding the hen house if they promise not to eat too many chickens
Professor Keith Bybee, a legal scholar at Syracuse University who studies the politics of race and ethnicity and director of the Institute for the Study of the Judiciary, Politics, and the Media, offered comments on the recent ruling by a judge in North Carolina to redraw its congressional map due to partisan gerrymandering.
Bybee said that this case and future cases, the Supreme Court has two gerrymandering cases on its docket on this term, will further inflame the debate over how judges rule on partisan control of voting districts.
“In the United States, the boundaries of congressional election districts are typically drawn by elected officials,” said Bybee. “This week, for the first time, a federal court invalidated congressional districts because the district map gave an unconstitutional advantage to the political party controlling the boundary-drawing process.”
“The Supreme Court already has two partisan gerrymandering cases on its docket this term, and this week’s decision will only heighten the raging debate over how the judges should respond to partisan control of legislative districting,” says Bybee.
“This is an important issue, but perhaps also a narrow issue. The courts are concerned with how much partisan influence on districting is too much influence. But this concern leaves unaddressed the fundamental conflict of interest inherent in allowing sitting politicians to determine the rules of their own election,” says Bybee. “We should be heartened by the fact that the courts are showing renewed interest in the excesses of partisan gerrymandering. But we should also realize that judges may very well be willing to allow the foxes to continue guard the henhouse so long as the foxes promise not to eat too many chickens.”
Bybee is also the author of Mistaken Identity: The Supreme Court and the Politics of Minority Representation, Bench Press: The Collision of Courts, Politics, and the Media, All Judges Are Political – Except When They Are Not: Acceptable Hypocrisies and the Rule of Law and How Civility Works.
Bybee is available to speak to media on this issues. Please contact Ellen James Mbuqe, director of news and PR at Syracuse University, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 315.443.1897 or Keith Kobland, media manager at Syracuse University, at email@example.com or 315.443.9038