Supreme Court to hear partisan gerrymandering case

Supreme Court to hear partisan gerrymandering case

Supreme Court to hear partisan gerrymandering case

The U.S. Supreme Court could announce, the week of June 19, whether it will take up the case involving Wisconsin's legislative maps. By a vote of 5-4, the court also granted Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel's application for a stay in the redistricting case, Gill v. Whitford.

Even as the court agreed to hear the case, the justices sent a signal they may be skeptical of the challengers' arguments.

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A supreme court ruling faulting the Wisconsin redistricting plan could have far-reaching consequences for the redrawing of electoral districts that is due after the 2020 U.S. census.

The nation's highest court on Monday said it will hear arguments in the case.

If the justices uphold a lower court's ruling, it would be the first time Supreme Court justices would be striking down a state's district boundaries for violating the Constitution because of political gerrymandering.

Last November, a panel of federal judges ruled 2-1 that Wisconsin Republicans in 2011 designed the congressional map to "make it more hard for Democrats, compared to Republicans, to translate their votes into seats".

"The only way the legislature could have attained plaintiffs' desired election results would have been to engage in heroic levels of nonpartisan statesmanship by abandoning Republicans' advantage under court-drawn plans, including by adopting a plan under which incumbents were more likely to lose their seats", the appeal argued.

But the Supreme Court has never found a plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering. The vote to stay this order suggests that five members of the Supreme Court are leaning in the direction of doing nothing about Wisconsin's gerrymander. The four liberals would have let it proceed.

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Plaintiffs in the case asserted that GOP lawmakers had drawn district lines to divide Democratic majorities into smaller districts in order to dilute their electoral impact, as well as to corral Democratic voters into a small number of districts that already favor their party.

But Wisconsin officials defended the legislature's work and called on the justices to undo the lower-court ruling.

Burden said that if the Supreme Court overturns the lower court panel's decision, it could be a long time before another partisan gerrymandering case lands at its doorstep.

"This is a historic opportunity to address one of the biggest problems facing our electoral system", said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, "Gerrymandering has become so aggressive, extreme, and effective that there is an urgent need for the Supreme Court to finally step in and set boundaries".

As it stands now, the same court that struck down Wisconsin's map issued a separate 3-0 decision ordering the state Legislature to draw a new map by November 2017 so it would be ready in time for the 2018 election cycle.

It's the first case to challenge how far lawmakers may go to gain partisan advantage in creating political district maps, known as gerrymandering.

The high court has considered partisan gerrymandering in the past, but the justices have failed to agree on a standard for policing abuses when the issue was last before them in the early 2000s.

The Constitution mandates decennial reapportionment and redistricting of congressional and state legislative districts to reflect population shifts.

Cracking is gerrymandering occurs when a party's supporters are divided among multiple districts so that they fall short of a majority in each one.

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