Toward a Coherent Theory of Gerrymandering: Bandemer and Thornburg
In Bandemer v. Davis, 603 F. Supp. 1479 ( 1984), a three-judge federal panel held that partisan gerrymandering did present a justiciable claim and that the 1982 House and Senate plans for the Indiana legislature were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. In particular, the District Court found that "the district lines were drawn with the discriminatory intent to 'maximize the voting strength' of the majority Republican party and 'to minimize the strength' of the Democratic party" (p. 1492, references omitted). On appeal, the Supreme Court in Davis v. Bandemer, 106 S. Ct. 2797, _____ U.S. _____ ( 1986) agreed (6-3) with the lower court that partisan gerrymandering claims were justiciable, but reversed (7-2) the lower court's findings that Indiana's legislative plans were unlawful. There are four central issues that this paper will discuss.
First, how is it that the Supreme Court could, for the first time, hold partisan political gerrymandering to be unconstitutional, 1 and yet reject the seemingly overwhelming evidence for intentional partisan gerrymandering that the federal district court in Bandemer used as the basis for its finding that the Indiana legislative plans constituted impermissible political gerrymandering? In particular, what facts were either missing or inadequately demonstrated in the factual record in Bandemer v. Davis for which the Supreme Court will require evidence if a finding of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering is to be sustained?
Second, does the Supreme Court plurality opinion in Bandemer offer