Two Missouri attorneys have joined the redistricting fight in the nation’s high court arguing that political parties should not be a protected class.
Eddie Greim and Lucinda Luetkemeyer, both partners at Graves Garrett, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the National Republican Redistricting Trust in support of the North Carolina legislature in Rucho v. Common Cause.
The two Kansas City attorneys contend that those bringing the case are asserting a political party’s group right to a certain proportion of seats and that legislators can’t represent a district that is a community of citizens and a political party.
In the case set to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in March, Common Cause, the North Carolina Democratic Party, 14 Democratic voters, and one Republican voter allege that the way North Carolina drew their districts was partisan gerrymandering that violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The issues involved in the case are: whether plaintiffs have the standing to press their partisan gerrymandering claims, whether plaintiffs’ partisan gerrymandering claims are justiciable, and whether North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map is, in fact, an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
“My brief argues, filed on behalf of the NRRT, that these claims ultimately don’t make sense,” said Greim. “They are not really about individual rights and that is the only kind of right the Supreme Court has said that it will take up…our second point is ‘by the way, here is why we will never have a group right to a certain number of seats in the legislature.’”
He noted that if a certain party was designated to have a specific number of seats then it’s not the people who matter, but the political parties. According to Greim, under such a model, those elected would be representing a political party and not the community.
The model being proposed to be used as a determining factor of what constitutes unfair gerrymandering is actually now in the Missouri Constitution, Greim said.
“Everybody knows politics goes into redistricting. Some politics is okay but how do we know when we have too much politics…the new way of litigation that started last summer was, ‘uh huh, we finally have a test,’” said Greim.
And that is where the unique Missouri connection comes in, he noted. One of the tests that was being tried out in court is now in the Missouri Constitution. The Show-Me State is a bit of a “laboratory” experiment on the practicality of the tests, according to Greim.
“It is foreign to our government that individual groups, whether they be political parties or a union or right-to-life groups, can come in and claim that they have a right to a certain number of seats in a legislature,” said Greim.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.