Lawmakers differ sharply on Supreme Court decision

Attorneys for Wisconsin voters applauded Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court took up their challenge to partisan gerrymandering.

About an hour after the Court issued its order agreeing to hear this case, it issued a second order, on a 5-4 vote, granting a stay of the lower court order in this case. Although non-partisan commissions control the drafting of these districts in a handful of states, partisan state legislatures in most states control the process. State and federal legislative district boundaries are reconfigured every decade after the census so that each one holds about same number of people.

Gerrymandering has become more precise as computer software has become more sophisticated, enabling map-makers to divide counties, cities and even neighborhoods to maximize their political advantage. The maps can all but ensure that the party in power at the beginning of a decade – when districts are drawn – will keep control of a state legislature and win most of a state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Where did the term “gerrymandering” originate?

The electoral results under the Wisconsin map were remarkably similar to court-drawn maps in past decades, the state’s brief states.

How does racial gerrymandering work?

“It’s a good thing I said all along, that the law passed year ago on redistricting was constitutional”. The 1965 Voting Rights Act outlawed this practice by requiring states to create “majority-minority” districts, which are districts which feature a majority of voters from a single minority group. Schimel urged the Supreme Court to consider the matter.

Which party now benefits the most from gerrymandering?

Their lawsuit claimed that Republicans spread Democrats thin among some districts so that they could not achieve a majority. Although Republicans and Democrats split the vote in the 2016 general election, the GOP has a 2-1 advantage in the state legislature. “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.

The Supreme Court had discussed the case at its June 8 and June 15 conferences, according to the court’s docket on the case. When the Supreme Court issues its ruling, it will be the first time a court has decided the key parameters around the drawing of district lines based on partisanship.

Common Cause and the League of Women Voters have filed separate lawsuits challenging the new maps as partisan gerrymanders, using some of the same legal arguments threaded throughout the Wisconsin case. The dissenting judge said that Wisconsin might have been politically motivated but the state complied with traditional redistricting principles that the Supreme Court has previously upheld.

Earlier this year a panel of three federal judges struck down Wisconsin state House district maps, drawn in 2011 by the state’s Republican-majority legislature.

The Wisconsin case will be the first time since 2004 that Supreme Court justices will address political gerrymandering.

“More than 60 percent of the state legislative seats in the general election were uncontested, [with] no Republican running against those Democrats because they were such Democratic districts”, Potter said.