Supreme Court to decide on partisan gerrymandering

Alvin Kelly
June 27, 2017

However, the court has never turned down a map drawn to give an advantage to a political party.

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it would consider whether partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution. Although the justices have frequently invalidated district maps that disadvantage minorities, they have stopped short of striking down maps favoring one political party over the other.

Rep. Peter Barca, Wisconsin state Assembly Democratic minority leader: "Voters should be able to choose their representatives, not the other way around, and I have faith that the Supreme Court will do the right thing to help end the awful polarization we see in both Wisconsin and across America".

The challengers in the Wisconsin case argued that the state's electoral map was carefully drawn so that the GOP was virtually guaranteed to control the Legislature for the entire decade. Their Assembly lines were so effective that Republicans won a commanding majority in the chamber in 2012 even as Obama won Wisconsin by 7 points and Democratic legislative candidates won more votes statewide than Republicans did. The map, Judge Kenneth F. Ripple wrote for the majority, "was created to make it more hard for Democrats, compared to Republicans, to translate their votes into seats".

The lower court ruled that the Republican-led legislature's redrawing of state legislative districts in 2011 amounted to "an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander", a term meaning manipulating electoral boundaries for an unfair political advantage.

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A nonpartisan redistricting process is not only fair and impartial, it also would cost taxpayers far less than than the two million tax dollars and counting used to draw and defend the current maps. In 2014, the party garnered 52 percent of the vote and 63 state Assembly seats.

The Supreme Court recently found North Carolina's 1st and 12th Congressional Districts and numerous state's legislative districts to be racial gerrymanders. They said the results under the legislature's map were "remarkably similar" to election outcomes under earlier, court-drawn districts. If they find that the "efficiency gap" model presents courts with a "judicially discernible and manageable standard", then it will be a major step in moderating one of the most pernicious threats our democracy faces.

Both parties will now file briefs, or written arguments for their case, with the court.

Before 2020, the case could affect congressional maps in about half a dozen states and legislative maps in about 10 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. Let's say you have a strongly Democratic district. Republicans disagree. They say the maps reflect the population: districts are mainly blue, or Democratic, in urban areas, while districts elsewhere are mainly red, or Republican.

They urged the court to overturn the lower-court ruling and throw out the claim on the grounds that redistricting is a political process, not a legal one.

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