Political Gerrymandering and the Courts

By Bernard Grofman | Go to book overview

9
The "Totality of Circumstances" Approach
Gordon E. BakerSupreme Court decisions in 1983 ( Karcher v. Daggett (I), 462 U.S. 725 ( 1983)) and 1986 ( Davis v. Bandemer, 106 S. Ct. 2797 ( 1986)) have focused particular attention on the issue of political gerrymandering, held justiciable by the Court (6-3) in the latter case. Yet Justice Byron White's plurality opinion would confine judicial intervention to the more serious instances of maldistricting as distinguished from the usual, traditional partisan jockeying for political advantage. The Court concluded that a decision holding Indiana's districting invalid on the evidence presented "would invite attack on all or almost all reapportionment statutes" ( Davis v. Bandemer, p. 2811).What, then, would comprise the kind of evidence the Court found lacking in Indiana? Justice White suggested several possible indicators that might reveal an electoral scheme designed to thwart the responsiveness of representation to electoral shifts of opinion ( Davis v. Bandemer, p. 2812; see chapter 2). Since any single measure of possible vote dilution might not be sufficiently conclusive to meet the expectations outlined in Bandemer, we should survey several possible indicia of political gerrymandering. In doing so, it might be helpful to adapt a key phrase from the recent history of the Voting Rights Acts. The term totality of circumstances became a central feature of the 1982 extension of the Act in an effort to reconcile those emphasizing "intent" and those concerned with "effects" of voting laws and practices (including legislative redistricting) on the representation of racial minorities. The pertinent section reads:
a. No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard,

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