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Photo: Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court said that cases about partisan gerrymandering are "beyond the reach of the federal courts" — a blow to voting-rights activists and Democrats.

Why it matters: Today's ruling is a green light for gerrymandering to get even more aggressive. That will make it harder for minority parties to retake the reins of power — even in wave elections.

Details: The court was considering two specific instances of gerrymandering: A district in Maryland whose boundaries benefit Democrats, and North Carolina's legislative map, which was designed explicitly to help Republicans retain power.

  • "I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country," the architect of North Carolina's 2016 redistricting process said at the time.

The big picture: Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, didn't just say that those two specific instances of gerrymandering can stand. He said the federal courts will never draw a line to declare that any partisan gerrymander went too far.

  • How to draw legislative districts is a political question, Roberts said, and it's not the courts' place to decide "how much partisan dominance is too much."
  • States can answer that question for themselves, he said, by establishing nonpartisan redistricting commissions or changing their criteria.

The other side: "The politicians who benefit from partisan gerrymandering are unlikely to change partisan gerrymandering. And because those politicians maintain themselves in office through partisan gerrymandering, the chances for legislative reform are slight," Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent joined by the other three liberal justices.

  • Kagan also warned that gerrymandering will keep getting more extreme as the technology behind it advances, citing the advanced computer modeling that helped produce North Carolina's GOP-advantaged map.

Go deeper: Supreme Court freezes citizenship question for 2020 Census

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.