Speaking on the steps of the Supreme Court last week Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger continued his campaign to end the partisan drawing of legislative and congressional districts by calling on the nation’s highest court to terminate gerrymandering once and for all. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the lead plaintiffs in the Gill vs. Whitford case, and the legal team arguing the case on their behalf, Schwarzenegger made it clear that the time has come for the Supreme Court to act. “We are here today to ask the Supreme Court to fix something that the politicians will never do,” he said. “As Einstein said, those who created the problem will not be able to solve it.”
Governor Schwarzenegger has worked tirelessly to fix a system where politicians select their voters instead of voters selecting their political leaders. Schwarzenegger has opposed gerrymandering since his earliest days in the Governor’s Office where he saw first-hand how partisan redistricting allows hardline representatives with no accountability to their voters to block common sense policies from going forward. Working with good government groups Governor Schwarzenegger led ballot initiatives that created an independent citizens’ redistricting commission and gave that commission to draw state legislative and congressional district lines. Recognizing California’s success other states with ballot initiative process continue to try to replicate the California districting model. The former Governor continues to work to end gerrymandering throughout the United States through his Institute at USC, including backing research, which has been used to support political reform efforts.
Governor Schwarzenegger, his institute and a coalition of good government groups have turned to the courts for help in states that do not offer their voters the ballot initiative process to enact change. Considerable attention is being given to the Whitford case which if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs would have a sweeping impact on state legislatures of both parties who have been recklessly gerrymandering their state’s districts.
Schwarzenegger’s comments listed above were made at a press conference following the oral arguments in the Gill v. Whitford case which the Supreme Court heard on October 3rd. Plaintiffs in the Gill v. Whitford case questioned the constitutionality of the 2011 redistricting plan passed by the Wisconsin state legislature which redrew the state’s congressional districts to heavily favor Republican politicians. Following the 2012 elections, the first using the new maps, Republicans won 48.6 percent of the vote but took 60 of the Assembly’s 99 seats.
Paul Smith, with the Campaign Legal Center, argued the case of behalf of the plaintiffs and urged the court to act by telling the justices that “you are the only institution in the United States that can solve this problem just as democracy is about to get worse because of the way gerrymandering is getting so much worse.” He also told the justices that if this did not intervene now other states would follow the example set by Wisconsin and that warned that redistricting following the 2020 census “will produce a festival of copycat gerrymandering the likes of which this country has never seen.”
The Supreme Court has never overturned an election map because of egregious gerrymandering that favors one party and disproportionately disfavors another party. However a 2004 ruling left the door open for action if a workable standard could be created to determine a constitutional limit to partisan redistricting. Plaintiffs in the Gill v Whitford case believe that they have found that standard by measuring the “wasted votes” in elections to determine if there is a particularly high “efficiency gap” at play.
It is impossible to known how the justices will rule in this case but Court experts believe that Associate Justice Kennedy will cast the deciding vote. In previous rulings Justice Kennedy has displayed a willingness to limit partisan gerrymandering but it is impossible to tell from the October 3rd oral arguments how he will decide to act in Gill v. Whitford.
While we await the Court’s decision, expected in early 2018, Governor Schwarzenegger and the USC Schwarzenegger Institute will continue to work with good government organizations like Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and Represent.Us to fight to curtail excessive gerrymandering and to advocate for non-partisan citizen redistricting commissions like we have in California. Schwarzenegger has been heavily involved in the Gill v Whitford case, including reaching out to other respected elected Republicans to get involved.
“Congress would never, ever fix this problem, they have one interest and one interest only, and that is to stay in power, said Schwarzenegger outside the Supreme Court on October 3rd. “Nothing is getting done, and at the same time 98 percent of them are getting reelected, so you know it’s a fixed system. I say it is time to say ‘hasta la vista’ to gerrymandering.”
In the News
New York Times: Kennedy’s Vote Is in Play on Voting Maps Warped by Politics
Washington Post: Arnold Schwarzenegger at SCOTUS for gerrymandering case
San Francisco Chronicle: Arnold Schwarzenegger shreds gerrymandering outside of Supreme Court
The Hill: Schwarzenegger: It's 'time to terminate gerrymandering'