Vieth v. Jubelirer
After the 2000 census reduced the size of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation by two members, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a redistricting plan that clearly benefitted Republican candidates. Several members of the Democratic party sued in federal court, claiming that the plan was unconstitutional because it violated the one-person, one-vote principle of Article I, Section 2 of Constitution, the Equal Protection clause, the Privileges and Immunities clause, and the freedom of association.
The district court dismissed all but the Article I, Section 2 claim. It held that the voters bringing the suit had not proved that they would be denied representation, only that they would be represented by Republican officials. Because the plaintiffs (those bringing the suit) were not denied the right to vote, to be placed on the ballot box, to associate as a party, or to express their political opinions, their political discrimination claims failed.
However, the court found the act unconstitutional because it created districts with different numbers of voters, thereby violating the one-person, one-vote principle.
In a split decision that had no majority opinion, the Court decided not to intervene in this case because no appropriate judicial solution could be found. Justice Antonin Scalia, for a four-member plurality, wrote that the Court should declare all claims related to political (but not racial) gerrymandering non-justiciable, meaning that courts could not hear them. Because no court had been able to find an appropriate remedy to political gerrymandering claims in the 18 years since the Court decided Davis v. Bandemer, which had held that such a remedy had not been found yet but might exist, Scalia wrote that it was time to recognize that the solution simply did not exist.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, however, wrote in his concurring opinion (which provided the deciding fifth vote for the judgment) that the Court should rule narrowly in this case that no appropriate judicial solution could be found, but not give up on finding one eventually.
Davis v. Bandemer (1986)
Democrats in Indiana challenged the constitutionality of the state’s 1981 legislative apportionment plan, claiming that it diluted the votes of Indiana Democrats and therefore violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana struck down the maps as an unconstitutional gerrymandering. The defendants then appealed to the Supreme Court.
Writing for the Supreme Court, Justice Byron White held that “political gerrymandering cases are properly justiciable under the Equal Protection Clause,” but that the Indiana Democrats had failed to show the district plan was “sufficiently adverse” to constitute a constitutional violation. This decision is significant because it answered the question of justiciability, placing partisan gerrymandering claims squarely within the judiciary’s purview. However, the Court was unable to agree on a standard for reviewing such cases.
Baker v. Carr (1962)
The complaint, Baker alleged that by means of a 1901 statute of Tennessee apportioning the members of the General Assembly among the state's 95 counties, "these plaintiffs and others similarly situated, are denied the equal protection of the laws accorded them by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States by virtue of the debasement of their votes. Carr, the Tennessee secretary of State was the named defendant.
The suit was dismissed by a three-judge court in the Middle District of Tennessee. The court held that it lacked jurisdiction of the subject matter and also that no claim was stated upon which relief could be granted.
The U. S. Supreme Court took jurisdiction of the case and in a 7-2 decision overruled the Tennessee federal judges. The Court noted provisions in the Tennessee Constitution that require the legislature to carry out decennial redistricting based on the number of qualified voters in each county. The Court noted that since 1901 the Tennessee legislature had failed to carry out the required redistricting.
Justice William Brennan, speaking for the Court's majority, declared, "In light of the District Court's treatment of the case, we hold today only (a) that the court possessed jurisdiction of the subject matter; (b) that a justifiable cause of action is stated upon which appellants would be entitled to appropriate relief; and (c) that the appellants have standing to challenge the Tennessee apportionment statutes.