Vieth v. Jubelirer
541 U.S. 267 (2004)

  • 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 benefited 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 freedom of association.
  • The Trial Court dismissed all but the Article I, Section 2 claim.
    • The Trial Court found 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 they 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 Trial Court found the plan was unconstitutional because it created districts with different numbers of voters, thereby violating the one-person, one-vote principle established in Baker v. Carr (369 U.S. 186 (1962)).
      • Because the plaintiffs had shown that it was possible to create districts with smaller differences, and because the defendants had failed to justify the disparities resulting under their plan, it was therefore unconstitutional.
  • In a split decision that had no majority opinion, the US Supreme Court decided not to intervene in this case because no appropriate judicial solution could be found.
    • The US Supreme Court found that they should declare all claims related to political (but not racial) gerrymandering nonjusticiable, meaning that courts could not hear them.
    • The Court found that because no court had been able to find an appropriate remedy to political gerrymandering claims in the 18 years since they decided Davis v. Bandemer (478 U.S. 109 (1986)), which had held that such a remedy had not been found yet but might exist, it was time to recognize that the solution simply did not exist.
  • In a concurring opinion (which provided the deciding fifth vote for the judgment) it was argued that 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.
    • The concurrence admits that the State legislature is doing a bad thing, but felt that there was no way to come up with a remedy.
      • The Political Question Doctrine would say that the real remedy should be that if people didn’t like it, they should vote the Republicans out of the State legislature and replace them with people who won’t gerrymander.