May 25, 2018

Supreme Court Will Hear Wisconsin Partisan Gerrymandering Case

26 June 2017, 02:28 | Guillermo Sutton

For the first time in more than a decade, the Supreme Court will take up a case questioning a common practice USA lawmakers use to draw political maps: gerrymandering.

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether a lower court ruled correctly that Wisconsin's legislative district map is unconstitutional, and granted a stay of that lower court's order that required Assembly Republicans to draw new district lines this year.

On Monday, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal case involving partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. This latest case is an appeal made with regards to the legislative map for the Wisconsin State Assembly, which was redrawn after Republicans gained control of the area in 2010.

"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".

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. Democrats filed suit and claimed the GOP jammed the opposing party into districts which gave them very little chance to win a legislative majority during the decade.

Smith said a victory for the plaintiffs would "be to really affect the way the legislators in all of the states draw their maps next time in 2021 because they will know there's a much-enhanced risk of the map being thrown out and they would much more likely try to minimize the degree of bias in the maps". The ruling was the first time in over three decades that a federal court invalidated a redistricting plan for partisan bias.

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The panel, in a 2-1 vote, found the Republican-controlled legislature enacted a plan that dilutes the voting strength of Democratic voters statewide, impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats - and no political geography of the state or other state interest explains the discriminatory effect.

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

This case could have "enormous ramifications", Steve Vladeck, a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law, told CNN This would be the first time the court has "articulated a constitutional rule in this context", he said. Justice Kennedy has said in the past that if there were such a standard, the Supreme Court should intervene to prevent such partisan gerrymandering.

In 2012, Republicans won a supermajority of 60 seats - out of 99 - while losing the statewide presidential vote, the challengers wrote in a brief.

In another free speech case, the court struck down a North Carolina law that barred convicted sex offenders from using Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites that are available to children. In packed districts, the efficiency gap considers all of the votes over 50 percent-that is beyond those needed to get a candidate elected-to be superfluous, or "wasted"; and in cracked districts, all votes for the losing party are deemed wasted.

He said the compactness of a district - and how squiggly or rectangular it was - was rarely a good indication of how gerrymandered it is.

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