April 21, 2018

Justices take on fight over partisan electoral maps

26 June 2017, 02:28 | Latoya Patrick

US Supreme Court agrees to take on partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin case that could set standards across country

Supreme Court to take Wisconsin partisan gerrymandering case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday made a decision to review a case decided last November that said the 2011 Republican re-drawing of State Assembly boundaries was an unconstitutional gerrymander, because of excessive partisanship.

The state has appealed a lower court ruling, which found that state Republican lawmakers had violated the constitution when they drew up legislative districts to disadvantage the Democrats. However, the court has never turned down a map drawn to give an advantage to a political party.

The trial to hear the North Carolina challenge was set to begin June 26, however that case was continued today after the Supreme Court said it would hear the Wisconsin case, according to Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Registered Democratic voters in Wisconsin mounted a lawsuit alleging that GOP lawmakers had redrawn their districts to disproportionately favor Republican candidates.

Should Republicans prevail in this case, we may see more states establish independent commissions to draw their electoral maps - since the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 those are constitutional.

Longtime Democratic Party activist Bill Whitford brought the case Gill v. Whitford, which challenges Wisconsin's 2011 State Assembly map as unconstitutional.

In 2016's N.C. General Assembly elections, Republicans won 52.4 percent of the statewide vote in the state house elections, but secured 61.7 percent of the seats; in the state senate, Republicans won 55 percent of the statewide vote cast, but laid claim to 70 percent of the upper chamber's seats.

In the Wisconsin case, a divided panel of three judges a year ago struck down the state's 2011 state assembly maps as drawn with discriminatory intent - "to entrench the Republican party in power" for the remainder of the decade.

"A federal court has ruled that their partisan gerrymandering has put them in violation of not just basic fairness but the United States Constitution and ordered new maps".

The issue has splintered the Supreme Court in the past, most recently in a 2004 ruling that left Justice Anthony Kennedy as the court's pivot point.

The Supreme Court is wading into the thicket of partisan redistricting in a case from Wisconsin.

"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.

A supreme court ruling faulting the Wisconsin redistricting plan could have far-reaching consequences for the redrawing of electoral districts that is due after the 2020 USA census. Conversely, by splitting those same partisan voters into multiple districts, they are said to be "cracked" into districts to avoid being able to elect one of their own.

"And they would argue that the new legal standard is such that the IL map doesn't measure up constitutionally and they would have a pretty good argument that it should be fixed before the next round of redistricting comes along", Smith said.

The new case out of Wisconsin will test that.

The way America conducts its elections could soon be upended by a landmark Supreme Court case.

The "wasted votes" is regarding the simple majority of 50.1 percent required to win a race.

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