What's unusual about this week's ruling against partisan gerrymandering in Michigan is not that judges ruled a map unconstitutional; courts in four other states have struck down legislative districts for violating the political rights of the party out of power.
What's really extraordinary is that a bipartisan group of federal judges all but begged the Supreme Court to limit overly partisan cartography nationwide – something the justices are currently contemplating.
"Federal courts must not abdicate their responsibility to protect American voters from this unconstitutional and pernicious practice that undermines our democracy," wrote the three judges who struck down much of Michigan's congressional and state legislative boundaries, asserting that judicial inability to protect voters' rights "will only increase the citizenry's growing disenchantment with, and disillusionment in, our democracy."
The judges, two nominated by Bill Clinton and the other by George Bush, then underscored that message with this unmistakable appeal to the high court: "Judges — and justices — must act in accordance with their obligation to vindicate the constitutional rights of those harmed by partisan gerrymandering."
The Supreme Court is expected to decide in June whether the drawing of legislative maps can ever by unconstitutionally poisoned by partisan motive – and, if so, what the limits of the practice should be. Those cases involve a Maryland map designed by the Democrats to assure the GOP wins only one of the eight House seats, and a North Carolina map drawn by Republicans to minimize Democrats' chances of winning more than three of the 13 districts in a tossup state.
Michigan is also a purple bellwether on the national political map, but Republicans ran this latest redistricting to give their candidates an opportunity to dominate the congressional delegation and the state legislature, which has happened through most of the decade. Thursday's ruling said all the maps violated two parts of the Constitution: the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection, by creating "districts that were intentionally drawn to ensure a particular outcome in each district," and the First Amendment's right to freedom of association, by effectively punishing Democrats for their views by placing them in districts where their side could never win.
"The evidence points only to one conclusion: partisan considerations played a central role in every aspect of the redistricting process," the judges wrote in ordering new maps to be drawn by August – a demand that Michigan may need to follow only if the Supreme Court comes to a similar conclusion in the two cases it is considering.
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RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.
While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."