The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up an appeal over electoral districts in Wisconsin after a lower court ruled that the state’s Republican-drawn map constitutes an “unconstitutional partisan gerrymander”.
The Supreme Court will take up a fight over parties manipulating electoral districts to gain partisan advantage in a case that could affect the balance between Democrats and Republicans in many states.
In a possible sign of deep ideological divisions among the nine justices over the issue, the court’s conservative majority granted Wisconsin’s request, despite opposition from the four liberal justices, to put on hold the lower court’s order requiring the state to redraw its electoral maps by November 1.
The Supreme Court has previously found partisan gerrymandering constitutional, but Justice Anthony Kennedy-who will likely prove the swing vote in this case-has written that gerrymandering can go too far.
The issue is reaching the high court at a time when both Republicans and Democrats have improved the art of drawing congressional and legislative maps to entrench themselves in office for a decade at a time.
Democratic state senate minority leader Jennifer Shilling said, “Republican efforts to suppress voters, restrict voting rights and rig elections through gerrymandered maps have already been ruled unconstitutional by multiple courts.Democrats will continue to champion non-partisan redistricting reform to empower citizens and restore fairness to our election process”.
The Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, whose attorneys are serving as co-counsel representing 12 Wisconsin voters, praised the court’s decision to hear the case.
The Supreme Court declared Monday that it will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, a potentially fundamental change in the way American elections are conducted. The four liberals would have let it proceed. The plaintiffs, complaining about an egregious Republican gerrymander of the state legislature, have come up with a new test to measure when politics has over-infiltrated the redistricting process.
Both parties draw congressional and legislative districts to their own advantage – a challenge to a congressional plan drawn by Maryland Democrats is making its way through the courts.
A three-judge court struck down the districts as an illegal partisan gerrymander and ordered new ones to be put in place for the 2018 elections.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel (SHIH’-mehl) says he is “thrilled” the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by Democrats challenging redistricting maps drawn by Republicans.
The court’s five conservative justices voted to stop the redistricting process.
The justices say Monday they will decide whether Republican lawmakers drew electoral districts so out of whack with the state’s political breakdown that they violated the constitutional rights of Democratic voters.
“This will be the biggest and most important election law case in decades”.
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Wendy Sue Johnson, said she is “grateful the Supreme Court will hear our case and listen to our stories of how we are harmed”. Nationwide redistricting in 2020, and all future congressional and state legislature elections, will ultimately hinge on whether the courts will referee extreme gerrymandering. That work is proceeding.
Democrats hope a favorable decision will help them cut into GOP electoral majorities.
However, in California, the state’s non-partisan redistricting and its “top-two” primary system have actually led to more-competitive races, some even pitting members of the same party against one another.
Gerrymandering has been derided for generations, often mocked in cartoons depicting bizarre-shaped districts that look like salamanders or spiders.