The Supreme Court decided 9-0 on two gerrymandering cases on Monday. There had been hope that a concrete decision would be made on the Constitutionality of gerrymandering, but that did not happen.
Much had been made of the Ginsberg / Gorsuch disagreements about one of them, Gill v. Whitford. An example can be found in back-issue pages of the New Yorker. The anticipation for the ruling that the apparent discord had generated was unfounded.
In the first case, Gill v. Whitford, the merits of the case were not considered because the consensus decision was that the plaintiffs had not adequately demonstrated they held Article III standing. In other words, they could not demonstrate that they were personally at risk of deleterious effects in the case. The Wisconsin Democrats who had brought the case over a gerrymandered map had a successful lower court ruling vacated, and the gerrymandered map as written by the state stands.
There were slightly different opinions on the rationale, resulting in differing but concurring opinions from multiple Justices.
In the second case, Benisek v. Lamone which dealt with an effort to overturn Maryland’s gerrymandered map, there was even less dissent. Opinions were unanimous, and the lower court ruling which had kept the map in place was affirmed per curiam (with full agreement from the Justices).
In both cases the gerrymandered map stays – in Wisconsin benefiting the Republicans and in Maryland benefiting the Democrats – and decisions were based on procedural arguments rather than the merits of the cases.
The term comes a joking reference to Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, who in 1812 presided over such a redistricting. Gerry pronounced his name with a hard g (like the G in Grant) and for a while, the gerrymandering retained that pronunciation. In the absence of audible mass media, the name spread, but the pronunciation slowly shifted. By 1850, for example, an Indiana politician alluded to this variation, declaring, “You are constantly gerrymandering the State, or jerrymandering, as I maintain the word should be pronounced, the g being soft.”