June 23, 2017

US top court to hear Wisconsin appeal in electoral map dispute

20 June 2017, 12:37 | Guillermo Sutton

Justices could take up high-stakes fight over electoral maps

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The federal court that struck down the districts adopted an equation that offers a way to measure the partisan nature of the districts. He said on Monday that Wisconsin's "redistricting process was entirely lawful and constitutional, and the district court should be reversed". As Yale Law School dean Heather Gerken noted in a Vox piece following the initial district court decision, a gap above that amount indicates that the disadvantaged party "would have nearly no chance of taking control of the legislature during the 10-year districting cycle".

Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Elections Project, which organized and launched the lawsuit on behalf of Democratic voters in Wisconsin, said later that lawyers for the voters were told that oral arguments would be scheduled for the first week of October.

Sen. Jennifer Shilling, Wisconsin state Senate Democratic minority leader: "Regardless of the outcome in this case, we must remain committed to promoting election fairness, protecting voter rights and preserving our shared democratic values".

Walker says he sees no reason why the highest court in the land would force Wisconsin to redraw their legislative maps. It said it would postpone the question of whether it has jurisdiction "to the hearing of the case on the merits".

A divided three-judge panel of the US District Court for Wisconsin ruled past year against the Wisconsin map, concluding that the plaintiffs are correct and that the map's gerrymandering is unconstitutional. He said he doesn't believe the court will rule until possibly the middle of 2018. "However the Court rules will affect elections for years to come", says University of Kentucky College of Law's Josh Douglas, a law professor, according to CNN.

Venturing into what one justice recently called the "always unsavory" process of drawing election districts for partisan advantage, the court will try to set a standard - something it has failed to do in the past.

"Correct", responded Marc Elias, who was general counsel for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

"Gerrymandering" refers to the practice of drawing legislative district lines to favor incumbents, political parties or interest groups. The Democratic plaintiffs in Wisconsin's case are hoping to change that.

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Even as the court agreed to hear the case, the justices sent a signal they may be skeptical of the challengers' arguments.

Do we want a democracy in which politicians (of any party) can virtually assure their re-election and continued dominance in a state simply because of the way that they draw the maps? In addition, Wisconsin GOP legislative leaders hired a pair of law firms to represent them before the Supreme Court. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton - all played a role in the state's last round of redistricting, but none had weighed in on the U.S Supreme Court's announcement as of midday Monday.

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It's the first time in more than a decade that the nation's highest court will take up the issue of partisan gerrymandering, or drawing voting districts with the aim of strengthening one political party.

The Supreme Court has never struck down districts because they are unfairly partisan.

The case under review comes from Wisconsin, but about one-third of the maps drawn for Congress and state legislatures could be affected by the justices' ruling. He used the vote in urban areas like Milwaukee and Madison as an example: "I don't care how you draw the maps there, they're always going to win by big margins", Walker said.

"There is no question", said the 2-1 ruling, that the map drawn by Wisconsin's legislature "was created to make it more hard for Democrats, compared to Republicans, to translate their votes into seats".

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