Today’s political climate is extremely polarized. The country’s two leading parties seem unwilling to compromise. You either have to identify with the extreme right or the extreme left, otherwise, you risk going unheard. Partisan gerrymandering makes it easier for politicians to ignore concerns of unaffiliated constituents.

On Oct. 3, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Gill versus Whitford. The decision in this case has the potential to have a drastic effect on the country’s political landscape. The Supreme Court will decide whether it will accept a standard to determine whether partisan gerrymandering exists. Gerrymandering is manipulation of district lines to achieve political gain for a particular party.

By law, electoral districts must be redrawn every 10 years following the census. Political district lines must be redrawn in order to equalize the population of the districts. This presents a fine opportunity for the party in power to alter the district lines to its advantage. For instance, the party in power could cluster its party voters in one district and spreading the opposing party’s voters out in multiple districts.

Gerrymandering based on race is unconstitutional. However, partisan gerrymandering is still technically allowed. In the 1986 case of Davis v. Bandemer, the Supreme Court stated, “political gerrymandering cases are properly justiciable under the Equal Protection Clause.” However, the Supreme Court has not accepted any proposed standard proving gerrymandering.

This could all change with the decision for Gill versus Whitford. The case comes from Wisconsin. The plaintiffs in this case are asking the Supreme Court to accept and adopt the “efficiency gap” standard to determine whether partisan gerrymandering exists in a particular district.

The “efficiency gap” is the model developed by Eric McGhee and Nicholas Stephanopoulos to calculate wasted votes or votes that are not needed to secure a seat. If one party has a lot more wasted votes than the other party, then districts are gerrymandered.

If the Supreme Court accepts this model, which I posit it will, then it will restrict redistricting methods that will affect the entire country. Each voice can be heard because every vote will be equal. Rather than seeing a map of only red and blue states, we may see purple states, indicating the two sides working together. However, if the Court rejects this model, then there is nothing stopping the party in power to continue to ignore the concerns of the constituents with opposing viewpoints.

Accepting any model will help move this country forward and out of this divide. Such a vehicle is needed to initiate compromise between parties. This decision has the power to be that vehicle. The next redistricting will follow the 2020 census. We must take the steps necessary to get our political parties working together and that means removing the extreme polar partisan districts.

Donald Johnson

judge, 19th Judicial District

Baton Rouge