June 27 (UPI) -- On its final day before recessing for the summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday states have the power to draw their districts as they see fit, and that federal courts have no say in the matter.
The court voted 5-4 that federal courts have no jurisdiction in the practice, called gerrymandering. The decision split along political lines with Chief Justice John Roberts joining justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh in the majority. The court's more liberal members -- Elana Kegan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor -- dissented.
The court ruling is a response to disputes in North Carolina and Maryland, where Democrats in the latter challenged newly drawn districts they say were re-mapped simply to benefit Republicans. In North Carolina, Republicans accused Democrats of doing the same thing. Thursday's ruling requests both cases be dropped "for lack of jurisdiction."
"We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts," Roberts wrote. "Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions."
The justices said the ruling doesn't mean the high court condones gerrymandering, but rather it's only stipulates it's a state matter.
Kagan said in dissent this wasn't the time to abandon the court's duty to declare the law.
"The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government," she wrote. "And gerrymandering is, as so many Justices have emphasized before, anti-democratic in the most profound sense."
Sam Berger, vice president of Democracy and Government Reform at the Center for American Progress, said the court failed to set a reasonable standard to protect American democracy "from extreme partisan gerrymandering."
"Allowing lawmakers to choose their voters, rather than ensuring that the voter choose them, results in noncompetitive elections that do not represent the views of the American people," he said, arguing that independent redistricting commissions should have the final word.