Cases to watch as the US Supreme Court returns

Supreme Court

Vladeck said that while partisan gerrymandering has played a role in USA elections since the 19th century, access to better data has given politicians the ability to carve and create favorable districts in a "more shameless" fashion that heretofore. The question: Are extreme partisan gerrymanders violations of either the equal protection clause or possibly the First Amendment? "And this is really the last opportunity" to act before the next round of redistricting following the census of 2020.

Justice Kennedy questioned the NLRB's counsel whether the arbitration agreements at issue truly prohibit employees' right to engage in concerted activity, noting that employees could still work together to obtain the same counsel, share information, and strategize about their cases; they were merely prohibited from joining their cases and litigating collectively.

Redistricting typically is done by the party controlling a state's legislature.

The other judges are divided equally among the Republicans and Democrats.

If district lines can be redrawn so that one political party always has a distinct advantage, no matter what the numbers and affiliations of overall voters in a state, the most fundamental element of a democracy - the vote - will lose much of its meaning. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to uphold the gerrymander, said he "would not foreclose" the possibility of relief "if some limited and precise rationale were found to correct an established violation of the Constitution in some redistricting cases". An efficiency gap larger than 7% may show that one party holds an unconstitutional "systemic advantage" over the other.

In Wisconsin, the election map assured the GOP would have a supermajority of at least 60 seats in the 99-member state Assembly, even in elections such as 2012 when Republican candidates won just 48 percent of the vote.

Gerrymandering is hardly new: the name dates back to an unwieldy district created in 1812 by Elbridge Gerry, then governor of MA.

Imagine an extreme case: a state with five districts where three out of five voters are Republican. The practice takes its name from early 19th-century Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry, who developed a weird redistricting plan to keep his political cronies in power. The larger the gap between those two, the more likely the districts have been manipulated to favor Republicans.

As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his remarks on the Wisconsin case October 3, the courts "authority and legitimacy" would be hurt if it struck down legislative districts in so many states.

A similar case is brewing in Maryland, but it was brought by Republicans.

Republicans argue that the Wisconsin map reflects the fact that Democrats have packed themselves into cities, while Republicans are better distributed across the state.

But Alito voiced doubt over whether the metrics used to measure gerrymandering, drawn from social science and endorsed by the lower court, were manageable. "That is going to cause very serious harm to the status and the integrity of the decisions of this court in the eyes of the country". "If they can stack the Legislature in this way, what incentive is there for a voter to exercise his vote?" Four Justices appear to believe such claims to be beyond the reach of the courts and four believe that the courts must use their power to reign in partisan gerrymanders.

While the Supreme Court has a standard limiting the overreliance on race in map drawing except under the most limited circumstances, it has never been successful in developing a test concerning an overreliance on politics. Or it could mean grouping those opposition voters into districts where the other party has a lock on power-making it very hard for the opposing party to win elections there.