Political Gerrymandering and the Courts

By Bernard Grofman | Go to book overview

5
Perspectives on Davis v. Bandemer: Views of the Practitioner, Theorist, and Reformer

Bruce E. Cain

Much of the commentary immediately before and after the ruling in Davis v. Bandemer (106 S. Ct. 2797 ( 1986)) focused on legal issues primarily, such as the justiciability of partisan gerrymandering, the meaning of equal protection claims for groups, and the existence of manageable standards for judging the fairness of district boundaries. 1 For the most part, political scientists have only played a technical role in this controversy, advising the legal community on possible measures of gerrymandering and analyzing the electoral effects of various redistricting plans. 2 Even so, after a number of sometimes heated academic exchanges and legal skirmishes, the single piece of wisdom our discipline could agree on was that no one indicator completely and unambiguously captured the meaning of "fair representation." Beyond that simple point, there was, and unfortunately still is, little consensus. Some political scientists continue to believe that a laundry list of separately inadequate measures can collectively suffice to identify "invidious gerrymandering" ( Grofman, 1983a, pp. 545-549; 1985a), while others assert that the quest for objective measures of political fairness is futile ( Lowenstein and Steinberg, 1985; Cain, 1984).

The Court disclosed its long-awaited opinion on these issues in June 1986, ruling in Davis v. Bandemer that partisan gerrymandering claims are justiciable and establishing standards for partisan vote dilution that resemble those for racial vote dilution. However, the legal consequences of this decision are still ambiguous. As Professor

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