The Supreme Court held that a gerrymandering scheme that benefits the dominant political party may be examined by the judiciary, serving notice to legislatures that an extreme partisan use of apportionment powers might be judged unconstitutional by the federal courts.
Indiana Democrats contended that the Republicans, who were in the majority, had sought and obtained partisan advantage in a 1981 reapportionment plan for the election of the state legislature. Irwin Bandemer and other Democrats filed suit, claiming that the scheme violated the equal protection rights of Democratic voters. By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court decided that the political question doctrine does not prevent a political party from making an equal protection challenge of partisan gerrymandering. By a 7-2 vote, however, the Court found that the degree of gerrymandering was not extreme enough to constitute a violation of the constitutional rights of the Democrats. Justice Byron R. White’s
Representation, fairness of
Reynolds v. Sims
Shaw v. Hunt