Supreme Court Will Hear Landmark Wisconsin Partisan Gerrymandering Case

Alvin Kelly
June 20, 2017

Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law, told CNN that this case could have "enormous ramifications". It said redistricting efforts were unlawful partisan gerrymandering when they sought to entrench the party in power, and had no other legitimate justification.

The US Supreme Court announced Monday it would hear a case about possible gerrymandering in the drawing up of Congressional district boundaries, a running sore point between Republicans and Democrats.

The ruling is not expected until next year but will greatly impact North Carolina's voting districts, which are among the most severely gerrymandered in the country. Cracking is the practice of spreading opposition votes in districts where the governing party enjoys a majority, keeping those votes out of districts that could swing either way. And ultimately, it will be Justice Kennedy who determines if the Wisconsin case brings a satisfactory way of having the courts intercede in this most political of activities in the United States. 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.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson says the Republican governor "is confident Wisconsin's redistricting process is constitutional and is pleased to see the Supreme Court take the case".

The judges said the redrawing violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law and free speech by undercutting the ability of Democratic voters to turn their votes into seats in the Wisconsin state legislature.

After the 2010 census produced new population estimates the GOP-controlled state assembly redrew the district lines.

Republicans control the U.S. Congress. Michigan's state Senate has 27 Republicans, 11 Democrats.

Democrats do likewise where they control the line-drawing process, such as in Illinois, Maryland and MA.

As a result, congressional lines have become ever more partisan in recent years. In the 2016 election, Republicans won 10 of 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives while receiving just 304,000 more total combined votes in the 13 House races.

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A lower court ruled that Wisconsin's GOP lawmakers drew a state assembly map that was too biased against Democrats to be allowed, taking the view that overtly partisan gerrymanders aren't legal.

The Supreme Court could soon decide whether the drawing of electoral districts can be too political.

The high court is expected to hear arguments this fall on the state's appeal of the federal judicial panel's January ruling, which threw out the Republican maps. The four liberals would have let it proceed.

Redistricting experts widely believed justices would hear Wisconsin's appeal because it's so unusual. In that case and again in 2006, Kennedy didn't find one.

This is the second time justices have acted on gerrymandering this year.

If the Legislature is forced to draw new maps, they'd have to be more competitive, which would give Democrats a better shot at winning legislative seats than they have right now.

"Hyper-partisan gerrymandering is an attack on our democracy".

"We are disappointed in today's decision to stay the trial court interim remedy order, but we are still confident that the verdict will be upheld".

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