Published: Mon, June 26, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Supreme Court To Hear Case That Could Set Seismic Precedent Against Gerrymandering

Courts have rejected district election maps on grounds they were drawn outlandishly to disadvantage minority voters. Aside from this order postponing jurisdiction, the court opted not to take up any other cases this morning.

"Although a majority of the court has suggested that states can violate the Constitution if they draw legislative districts primarily to benefit one political party, the justices have never been able to identify the specific point at which states cross the constitutional line". Arguments would likely be heard in the fall.

In January 2017, the three-judge panel ordered Wisconsin Assembly Republican leaders to draw a new map by November 1.

The court said both the First Amendment and the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection prohibit redistricting plans that make it harder for members of a disfavored political party to elect their candidates and that can not be justified on legitimate grounds.

Last year, a citizen-led group in IL collected over half a million signatures to get a question on the general election ballot to change the state constitution, allowing for an independent commission to oversee the map-making process.

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Gerrymandering is a term nearly as old as American democracy. While the term is named for Gerry, redrawing districts was not his invention.

The Court will hear the Wisconsin government's appeal of Gill v. Whitford, a legal challenge against the GOP-majority legislature's election map, The New York Times reports.

The challengers to the Wisconsin districts said it is an extreme example of redistricting that has led to ever-increasing polarization in American politics because so few districts are genuinely competitive between the parties.

The Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue of race and congressional district-drawing, most recently last month when it rejected two North Carolina districts, as The Two-Way reported.

Several Democratic voters joined a lawsuit contending this partisan electoral map violated their rights to an equal vote.

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Of those in other states, 998 Democrats and 963 Republicans won without any opposition from the other major political party. For Democrats to complain of gerrymandering is "pure nonsense", said Matt Walter, the Republican committee's president.

"Wisconsin's gerrymander was one of the most aggressive of the decade, locking in a large and implausibly stable majority for Republicans in what is otherwise a battleground state", said redistricting expert Thomas Wolf of the Brennan Center.

"The number of Democrats and Republicans is about the same, but the state assembly leans heavily toward Republicans because of how the lines were drawn", he says. I've said all along, I think it'll be upheld in the court.

"There's enough of an emphasis now on this rather arcane process that the Supreme Court has finally got to dip their toe into this and make some sort of decision". Others say courts should step in. The Supreme Court has viewed political gerrymandering as distasteful but not illegal. In fact, part of Texas' argument claims redistricting was indeed based on partisanship - something courts have allowed in the past.

The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a closely watched challenge to partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin and decide whether it is unconstitutional for party leaders to entrench themselves in power with carefully drawn electoral maps.

Jenny Dye, research director for liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now: "Wisconsin Republicans have put their own political interests before everything else with their manipulation of the rules on voting to give themselves an unfair partisan advantage".

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