University of Chicago Law Review

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American democracy is plagued by excessive partisanship, and yet constitutional law thus far has been incapable of redressing this ill. Gerrymandering is one clear example: the partisan distortion of legislative districts has accelerated dramatically in the last several decades, yet the federal judiciary has been unable to develop a constitutional standard for curbing this egregiously antidemocratic behavior. Likewise, state legislatures around the country in the last decade have been enacting statutes to cut back on voting opportunities, and federal courts have struggled with articulating appropriate standards for evaluating the constitutionality of these roll- back laws. A main reason for this struggle has been the judicial unwillingness to tackle directly the transparently partisan motives underlying these legislative cut- backs in voting opportunities. This judicial difficulty with curtailing excessive partisanship stems from an attempt to rely on equal protection as the relevant constitutional standard for judicial review of election laws. Invocation of equal protection is understandable given the initial success of Warren Court precedents, like Reynolds v Sims and Harper v Virginia Board of Elections, in using equal protection to protect equal voting rights. But as the courts have subsequently discovered, equal protection is ill-suited to the problems of gerrymandering or legislation that cuts back on voting opportunities for all voters. This Article offers a previously undeveloped alternative to equal protection: due process. In a wide range of areas, including civil and criminal procedure, the Supreme Court has long recognized that due process encompasses a principle of fair play. This fair play principle, well understood to apply in society to athletic competition, is suitable in the domain of politics for constraining excessive partisanship in electoral competition. In fact, the history of the Fourteenth Amendment's ratification reveals that this fair play principle played an essential role in constraining excessive partisanship that threatened to destabilize the Republic at the time the amendment's ratification was under consideration in Congress. Once the significance of this history is recognized, the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause is properly construed as constraining the partisan overreaching that currently threatens to under- mine American democracy. In this way, the federal judiciary appropriately can invoke due process to directly redress excessive partisanship in the form of gerrymandering or rollbacks in voting opportunities.