Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Gerrymandering Case

Olive Rios
June 26, 2017

In the Wisconsin case, a divided panel of three judges previous year struck down the state's 2011 state assembly maps as drawn with discriminatory intent - "to entrench the Republican party in power" for the remainder of the decade.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will consider Wisconsin's redistricting lawsuit. This is what the challengers allege the Republicans in Wisconsin of doing.

A dozen Wisconsin Democratic Party voters in 2015 sued state election officials, saying the redistricting divided Democratic voters in some areas and packed them in others to dilute their electoral clout and benefit Republican candidates. This then allows for the Republicans to keep a 50.1 percent majority in more of the districts and give them a higher number of wins.

The Republicans add that the party in power typically creates districts that favor that party, and say Democrats have done the same thing in the past.

"They don't look weird", William Whitford, one of the Democratic plaintiffs suing over the Wisconsin map, said Monday on a conference call with reporters.

"The Supreme Court is a pretty big planet, and its gravitational pull is pretty strong", said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who tracks redistricting cases on his All About Redistricting website.

Because Wisconsin Senate districts are comprised of multiple Assembly districts, they are also considered unconstitutional under the lower court ruling. "It's a symptom of politics going haywire and something that we increasingly see when one party has sole control of the redistricting process".

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty's Rick Esenberg agrees.

The court said both the First Amendment and the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection prohibit redistricting plans that make it harder for members of a disfavored political party to elect their candidates and that can not be justified on legitimate grounds. It will be the high court's first case in more than a decade on what's known as partisan gerrymandering. Four others - only Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer remain of this group - said such challenges could be heard by the court, but disagreed on the method. Legislators should hold a public hearing on the bills so that voters can learn the truth.

On Monday, the Supreme Court in a separate order stopped the redrawing of Wisconsin's state legislative districts until the justices decide the case, but showed how divided it could become. Because of that, a lot of people will be watching the outcome.

The trial to hear the North Carolina challenge was set to begin June 26, however that case was continued today after the Supreme Court said it would hear the Wisconsin case, according to Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

In a 2004 case, Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that instead of focusing on the equal protection clause in considering gerrymandering, courts should perhaps stress "the 1st Amendment interest of not burdening or penalizing citizens because of their participation in the electoral process, their voting history, their association with a political party, or their expression of political views". The timing creates a mystery as to what maps will be in place for the 2018 elections.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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