U.S.

Supreme Court to Consider Case on Partisan Gerrymandering

Supreme Court to Consider Case on Partisan Gerrymandering

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 justices on Monday said they will decide whether Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin drew electoral districts so out of whack with the state's political breakdown that they violated the constitutional rights of Democratic voters.

A Supreme Court opinion on the matter is likely to impact elections and redistricting efforts across the country. In fact, part of Texas' argument claims redistricting was indeed based on partisanship - something courts have allowed in the past.

In a possible sign of deep ideological divisions among the nine justices over the issue, the court's conservative majority granted Wisconsin's request, despite opposition from the four liberal justices, to put on hold the lower court's order requiring the state to redraw its electoral maps by November 1. But Justice Anthony Kennedy, 80, would not go that far; he may be the swing vote in the new case - if he doesn't retire over the summer.

Every 10 years following the census, states redraw the boundaries of legislative districts to account for population changes, so that the number of people living in each district is about the same.

Sachin Chheda (SAH'-chihn CHAY'-dah) is director of the Fair Elections Project, which organized and launched the lawsuit. Republicans are the most frequent beneficiaries, largely because their success around the country in the 2010 elections let them draw numerous current maps. The case will not come up in a hearing before the Justices until their next term, starting in October.

"A federal court has ruled that their partisan gerrymandering has put them in violation of not just basic fairness but the United States Constitution and ordered new maps". He said he doesn't believe the court will rule until possibly the middle of 2018.

"This will be the biggest and most important election law case in decades", Josh Douglas, an election law expert and professor at University of Kentucky College of Law, told CNN. "The essential question is whether the court will finally accept a new standard and block partisan gerrymandering, or continue the court's stated disapproval of excessive partisan gerrymandering while never finding one to overrule", League of Women Voters president Chris Carson said.

"Correct", responded Marc Elias, who was general counsel for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

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.

A lawmaker looks at legislative redistricting maps.

Wisconsin Democratic Party chairwoman Martha Laning said, however, that she is "confident that the 2011 legislative maps will be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court as well and electoral fairness will be restored to Wisconsin".

"The maps were in place and Republicans gained seats in '12, '14, and '16". In addition, Wisconsin GOP legislative leaders hired a pair of law firms to represent them before the Supreme Court. The Republican National Committee and a dozen large Republican states have asked the court to reverse the Wisconsin decision.

A television news assistant runs to his co-workers with printed copies of Supreme Court decisions as soon as they are released.

While the Supreme Court has ruled on many aspects of the districting process - banning state legislative districts with unequal populations and banning districts meant to disenfranchise black voters - it has issued muddled opinions on the question of whether partisan gerrymanders are unconstitutional.


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