March 8, 2019

Whitehouse Calls Out Corrosive Dark Money Gerrymandering Campaigns in Supreme Court Brief

Brief presses argument by Whitehouse and Senator John McCain against ‘bulk’ partisan gerrymandering. Extreme gerrymandering fueled by anonymously funded groups makes Americans see ‘politics as a game orchestrated by powerful special interests whose victories come at the expense of the American voter,’ Whitehouse writes

Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an outspoken advocate for free and fair elections, will submit a friend-of-the-court brief today with the Supreme Court in a case involving partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina.  Continuing his work with the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Whitehouse argues that extremely partisan redistricting efforts, often fueled by anonymously funded groups with extreme special interest agendas, have distorted the democratic process.  The effect of this technologically advanced “bulk” gerrymandering, Whitehouse concludes, is “corrosive” on our democracy and must be checked by the judiciary, as the trial court in this case did.

The increase in partisan gerrymandering in recent years has been bolstered by the growing presence of ‘dark money’ in the American political system,” Whitehouse writes. “Special interest groups, fueled by hidden funders with deep pockets and skin in the political game, are now focused on influencing redistricting.  The payoff for these groups is obvious: By shaping the decennial re-districting process, special interest groups can affect the outcome of every congressional race in a state for the next decade.  The role of dark money in this process is a bipartisan concern, as both Republicans and Democrats rely on this funding.”

Whitehouse points to the Court’s previous decision in Vieth v. Jubelirer as greenlighting bulk gerrymandering designed to maximize political advantage for one political party at the expense of individual voters’ representation.  The American Bar Association has written that Vieth and related rulings “appear to give legislators leeway to preserve partisan advantage as zealously as they like when drawing district lines.”  By striking down the trial court’s decision in Rucho, the Court could allow gerrymandering to grow virtually unchecked.

Whitehouse continues, “Severe partisan gerrymandering undermines our democracy, which is based on fair and open elections that accurately reflect the will of the people and count every vote equally.  When the voters of a state vote one way, the resulting congressional delegation is more than 2-1 the opposite way, and the advantaged party intentionally produced that undemocratic result, it should be obvious that ‘one person, one vote’ has been violated.  This partisan gerrymandering leads voters to perceive, rightly, that their votes do not matter.  Indeed, [I] ha[ve] seen firsthand the growing concerns of constituents who view politics as a game orchestrated by powerful special interests whose victories come at the expense of the American voter.”

Whitehouse has filed several amicus briefs as a Senator calling out the growing power of special interests over Americans’ government and elections, including a brief filed in September 2017 with McCain highlighting dark money-funded special interest influence over voting and imploring the Court to allow courts to serve as a check on bulk partisan gerrymandering.

Once filed, Whitehouse’s full brief will be available here.


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