Supreme Court to hear partisan gerrymandering case


A lower court ruled that Wisconsin's GOP lawmakers drew a state assembly map that was too biased against Democrats to be allowed, taking the view that overtly partisan gerrymanders aren't legal.

But the court has not ever ruled on electoral maps that have been re-drawn simply to give a political advantage to one party over another. Although non-partisan commissions control the drafting of these districts in a handful of states, partisan state legislatures in most states control the process. Redistricting commonly takes place after the once-a-decade census is conducted. Legislatures consider factors like compactness, the principle of one-person-one-vote, geographic boundaries, county and city lines, and communities of interest in making these decisions.

This Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, may shy away from such an outcome. In Wisconsin, the Republicans were in charge so they tried to pack as many Democrats as they could into the fewest number of districts. In 2014, the party garnered 52 percent of the vote and 63 state Assembly seats. State governments are directed to update their district maps every 10 years following the U.S. Census.

It's settled law that you can't gerrymander on racial grounds. While these districts have allowed minorities to pick their representatives, they have had the unintended effect of limiting minority influence in other districts by packing them into one.

The Supreme Court will likely be divided evenly about the decision, with Justice Kennedy as the wild card who could lean one way or the other.

Which party now benefits the most from gerrymandering?

Meanwhile, the dozen plaintiffs - voters across the state - said the evidence laid out at the trial in the case showed that "Republican legislative leaders authorised a secretive and exclusionary mapmaking process aimed at securing for their party a large advantage that would persist no matter what happened in future elections". This case has the potential to help make Congress and state legislatures truly democratic, by ensuring that voters choose their representatives.

A Supreme Court ruling faulting the Wisconsin redistricting plan could have far-reaching consequences for the redrawing of electoral districts due after the 2020 USA census.

Chief Justice John Roberts (second from right) and Justice Neil Gorsuch (center) walk down the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., last week. The case was then petitioned to the nation's high court, which announced Monday it will hear it in November.

The Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue of race and congressional district-drawing, most recently last month when it rejected two North Carolina districts, as The Two-Way reported. Justice Kennedy has said in the past that if there were such a standard, the Supreme Court should intervene to prevent such partisan gerrymandering.

The court - after orders were released - issued a separate order granting Wisconsin's request to freeze the current maps until the Supreme Court hears the case next term. In 2012, Republicans won 48.6 percent of the two-party vote for Legislature, but still won 60 of the 99 seats in the Assembly.