Thursday, June 27, 2019


A small, perhaps only temporary victory at the Supreme Court today:
The Supreme Court on Thursday dealt an unexpected blow to the Trump administration's attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, ruling that official explanations for the move were implausible and legally inadequate.

In a surprising decision, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberals on that point. The high court returned the case to lower courts for further action, raising doubts about the administration getting the go-ahead to add the question before upcoming deadlines to finalize the census questionnaire....

Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the administration’s rationale appeared to be “contrived“ and suggested that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross presented a misleading reason for adding the question when he said it had been requested by Justice Department officials to protect the rights of minority voters.
Slate's Richard Hasen believes that the Trump administration could simply get a do-over -- in effect saying, "Oh, those blatantly dishonest reasons we gave you for putting the question in the Census weren't our real reasons. Here are the real reasons" -- and get a ruling in its favor from the Court in time to print the forms.

But even if that doesn't happen, I'm not sure it matters. The administration has made clear to non-citizens -- and to citizens who could be mistaken for non-citizens -- that it's gunning for them. It's also clear that the administration wants to strengthen the voting power of whites no matter what.

Yes, states will probably be permitted to draw districts based on numbers of citizens rather than residents -- but in addition, residents who would have been targeted by the citizenship question are probably still afraid to participate in the census, despite this ruling.

So the GOP doesn't really need the citizenship question anymore. Large numbers of residents are already deterred from participating, which was the point of the question.


Today's other major ruling is unambiguously bad:
In a 5-4 decision along traditional conservative-liberal ideological lines, the Supreme Court ruled that partisan redistricting is a political question — not reviewable by federal courts — and that those courts can't judge if extreme gerrymandering violates the Constitution.

The ruling puts the onus on the legislative branch, and on individual states, to police redistricting efforts....

"The Supreme Court's decision has made one thing clear: The only way we'll end partisan gerrymandering is by voting Republicans out of power in state legislatures," said Jessica Post, executive director the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which focuses on helping Democrats win statehouse races.
But the problem is self-perpetuating: In states where Republicans have legislative districts gerrymandered, even significant Democratic majorities in statewide voting are frequently not enough to flip control of the legislatures. How big do the Democratic blowouts have to be in order to undo the rigging?

So: an awful ruling and a ruling that just barely crosses into not-awful territory.

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