Supreme Court to hear major case on political boundaries
Jun 20 2017
Yet Democrats are more supportive of having courts rein in extreme districting plans, mainly because Republicans control more legislatures and drew districts after the 2010 census that enhanced their advantage in those states and in the House of Representatives.
And it gives the court an opportunity to formally determine a metric on what constitutes unlawful gerrymandering, which could have major implications for the way voting districts are drawn in other states.
WASHINGTON The Supreme Court is taking on a case about partisan advantage in redistricting that could affect elections across the United States. "In this case, a lower court held that Wisconsin had indeed crossed that line". The four liberal Justices dissented.... "The court has never had a clear approach to partisan gerrymandering once it chose to start hearing these cases at all". He said: "I am thrilled the Supreme Court has granted our request to review the redistricting decision and that Wisconsin will have an opportunity to defend its redistricting process".
The situation is similar in Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, where lines drawn by Republicans have given the GOP the lion's share of the seats in Congress and state legislatures. Aside from this order postponing jurisdiction, the court opted not to take up any other cases this morning.
A three-judge court struck down the districts as an illegal partisan gerrymander and ordered new ones to be put in place for the 2018 elections.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on the court, wrote a 12-page concurrence to a 2004 redistricting case that suggested he was open to striking down political gerrymanders if someone could come up with a way to measure how much partisanship is too much.
It is a political act that is as old as the American Republic, drawing its name as a "gerrymander" from a member of the Founding generation, Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, for his infamous state senate districting map so misshapen that it resembled an awkward salamander. The district's representative, Republican Henry Bonilla, ended up losing to Democrat Ciro Rodriguez in an election after the district's lines were redrawn.
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".
Democrats do likewise where they control the line-drawing process, such as in Illinois, Maryland and MA. The Supreme Court has never struck down districts because of partisan advantage.
This is the second time justices have acted on gerrymandering this year. For example, in 2012, the Republican party received about 49% of the vote but won 60 of 99 seats in the state assembly. State and federal legislative district boundaries are reconfigured every decade after the census so that each one holds about same number of people.
The new case out of Wisconsin will test that. Democrats won 56% of the vote but 71% of the seats where they controlled the process. They say Democratic voters are concentrated in the cities, giving the GOP a big edge elsewhere.