Supreme Court to Review Partisan Redistricting in Wisconsin Case

Justices could take up high-stakes fight over electoral maps

Justices could take up high-stakes fight over electoral maps

A divided three-judge panel of the US District Court for Wisconsin ruled previous year against the Wisconsin map, concluding that the plaintiffs are correct and that the map's gerrymandering is unconstitutional. Even former President Barack Obama has vowed to fight against the practice's misuses and abuses during his post-presidency, though the Supreme Court of the United States may beat him to the punch. Republicans are the most frequent beneficiaries, largely because their success around the country in the 2010 elections let them draw numerous current maps. The four liberals (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) dissented.

"Technology has made it easier than ever for self-interested legislators to manipulate districts for political advantage, so it is essential that courts step in to protect voters' fundamental constitutional rights".

At issue is the question of whether the process of drawing new election district boundaries is unconstitutional if one political party specifically creates maps giving its own candidates a distinct advantage in getting elected, directly limiting the other party's chances at the polls.

Republicans who control the state legislature assured the court that they could draw new maps in time for the 2018 elections, if the court strikes down the districts.

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would hear a case over whether partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional-a move that could spell disaster for Republican domination in the U.S. House of Representatives, governors' mansions, and state houses across America.

That formula is being challenged in an appeal by state Republican leaders.

Recent high-profile gerrymandering cases have focused primarily on the racial impact of redistricting. What was elusive, Kennedy said, was "a manageable standard by which to measure the effect of the apportionment and so to conclude that the state did impose a burden or restriction on the rights of a party's voters".

Though Kennedy anxious about "the failings of the many proposed standards for measuring the burden a gerrymander imposes on representational rights" - that is, the fact that it is hard to come up with an objective test courts can use to determine which maps are gerrymanders - he also concluded that "if workable standards do emerge to measure these burdens. courts should be prepared to order relief".

The measure, call the efficiency gap, shows how cracking (breaking up blocs of Democratic voters) and packing (concentrating Democrats within certain districts) results in wasted votes - excess votes for winners in safe districts and perpetually inadequate votes for the losers. It compares the total number of votes cast for the Legislature statewide to the total number of seats a party wins.

It's the first time in more than a decade that the nation's highest court will take up the issue of partisan gerrymandering, or drawing voting districts with the aim of strengthening one political party. Gerrymanders work by forcing one party to "waste" votes. Democrats do the same, but control fewer states.

Similar lawsuits are pending in Maryland, where Democrats dominate, and North Carolina, where Republicans have a huge edge in the congressional delegation and the state legislature. Any method of drawing districts will favor Republicans, they contend.

After winning control of the state legislature in 2010, Republicans redrew the statewide electoral map and approved the redistricting plan in 2011. He said the Wisconsin case, along with others, "will halt these illegal maps, now and in the future". If the Supreme Court takes it up, then we will actually get a statement from the court that, "this is the standard we've been looking for".

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