FOX News intern Brannon Dewolf runs with a decision released by the Supreme Court. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is now firmly in control of a firmly conservative court, and the concessions conservatives sometimes have to accept from him are not large.

Driving the news: President Trump criticized the court today after it said his administration has not offered a persuasive justification for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

  • The case had echoes of the challenge to Trump’s travel ban, in which Roberts opted not to question the administration’s motives.
  • This time, the mountain of evidence was simply too big, Roberts said. “We cannot ignore the disconnect between the decision made and the explanation given,” he wrote.
  • But the court gave the administration the chance to try again. It may well be able to add the citizenship question in the end, even without delaying the survey, election-law expert Rich Hasen writes.

The big picture: Even if it can’t, and the Census proceeds without a citizenship question, that loss pales in comparison to the victory conservatives won in the day’s real blockbuster ruling, on partisan gerrymandering.

  • Roberts effectively gave state legislatures a green light to be as aggressive as they want in redrawing legislative maps to preserve their partisan advantage. After today, no federal court will be able to tell a state it has gone too far. 
  • Republicans don’t have a monopoly on gerrymandering. The court was considering one GOP-led map and one that favored Democrats. But because Republicans control more state legislatures right now, they’ll benefit more from the unrestrained power to preserve those majorities.

The bottom line: Roberts may have denied Trump a question on the Census, but he’s handed the Republicans in control of most statehouses an incredibly valuable tool to preserve that power.

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