Bond v. Floyd and Expressive Proscriptions on the Partisan Gerrymander

Terry Smith

In Bond v. Floyd, the United States Supreme Court held that members of the Georgia Assembly could not deny civil rights activist Julian Bond his oath of office based on his antiwar statements. Bond, duly elected by his constituency, enjoyed “the widest latitude to express [his] views on issues of policy.” Bond’s right to speak was not merely an individual right; rather, his freedom of speech enabled his constituents to “be represented in governmental debates by the person they have elected to represent them.”

Long viewed in a doctrinal silo, Bond in fact dovetails with a maturing opprobrium of the partisan gerrymander. For it seems odd to forbid the state to silence a representative of the people but to permit the state to deprive the people of representation in the first place through the partisan gerrymander. If the First Amendment secured Bond’s speech from censure both in his individual and representative capacity, it makes little sense to permit the state, by use of the partisan gerrymander, to do at an earlier juncture in the electoral process what it could not do after Bond was elected.