Adam Liptak reports for the NYT:
But the decisions were a setback for critics of gerrymandering, who had hoped that the Supreme Court would transform American democracy by subjecting to close judicial scrutiny the way districts have been redrawn to accommodate the preferences of the party in power. When the dust settled Monday, the status quo remained in place.
The court’s decision to duck rather than decide the central issues turned on Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, said Richard L. Hasen, who teaches election law at the University of California, Irvine.
In 2004, Justice Kennedy wrote in a concurring opinion that he might consider a challenge to partisan gerrymandering if there were “a workable standard” to decide when such tactics crossed a constitutional line. But he said he had not seen such a standard.
Professor Hasen said he is apparently still looking.
“Justice Hamlet lives,” he said. “After a decade and a half of ruminating on how to separate permissible from impermissible consideration of party in redistricting, Justice Kennedy has decided he — or his successor — needs still more time for rumination.”
The question may return to the court soon enough. A new challenge, from North Carolina, is waiting in the wings and could allow the justices to try again to find a standard that could allow constitutional challenges to voting maps warped by politics.