Supreme Court could decide if gerrymandering can be too political

Remigio Civitarese
Giugno 19, 2017

Wisconsin's Republican party won 48.6 percent of the vote in the first election following the release of Wisconsin's current maps. Their Assembly lines were so effective that Republicans won a commanding majority in the chamber in 2012 even as Obama won Wisconsin by 7 points and Democratic legislative candidates won more votes statewide than Republicans did.

The Supreme Court has made a decision to hear a case that could clarify whether there are limits on partisan gerrymandering, an issue that could have major reverberations in the control from the House and statehouses across the country.

"As I have said before, our redistricting process was entirely lawful and constitutional, and the district court should be reversed", Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said.

Both parties have sought the largest partisan edge when they control redistricting.

The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that recent Wisconsin election results favoring Republicans were "a reflection of Wisconsin's natural political geography" with Democrats concentrated in urban areas like Milwaukee and Madison.

The Supreme Court has been willing to invalidate state electoral maps on the grounds of racial discrimination, as it did on May 22 when it found that Republican legislators in North Carolina had drawn two electoral districts to diminish the statewide political clout of black voters. The court today sided in a 7-1 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts with a Georgia inmate on death row in his appeal to the court citing efforts by prosecutors to exclude African Americans from a jury panel in the murder case.

Critics of gerrymandered districts say they undermine democracy, leaving voters with little influence over who represents them.

The lower court ruled that the Republican-led legislature's redrawing of state legislative districts in 2011 amounted to "an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander", a term meaning manipulating electoral boundaries for an unfair political advantage.

The Constitution requires states to redo their political maps to reflect population changes identified in the once-a-decade census.

The Supreme Court hasn't considered the legality of partisan gerrymandering since 2004, when the justices failed to come to a clear conclusion about whether it was legal and what limits could be put on it.

Employing the latest mapping technology, they created "a district plan that is one of the most extremely gerrymandered state legislative plans in the last four decades", a statement from the Campaign Legal Center says. Yet Democrats are more supportive of having courts rein in extreme districting plans, mainly because Republicans control more legislatures and drew districts after the 2010 census that enhanced their advantage in those states and in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Peter Barca, Wisconsin state Assembly Democratic minority leader: "Voters should be able to choose their representatives, not the other way around, and I have faith that the Supreme Court will do the right thing to help end the bad polarization we see in both Wisconsin and across America". Aside from this order postponing jurisdiction, the court opted not to take up any other cases this morning.

And in the 2006 case of League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, the court limited a ruling on the 2003 Texas congressional map to a single district, finding that the map had diluted Latino votes in District 23.

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