February 20, 2018

Gerrymandering Opponents Get Mixed Reception at Supreme Court

06 October 2017, 12:28 | Kenneth Drake

For the first time, the Supreme Court seems receptive to putting limits on partisan gerrymanders

New Gerrymandering Suit Challenges PA Maps In Federal Court

The Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in the Wisconsin case on Tuesday.

Fifty-four retired Wisconsin judges have petitioned the state Supreme Court, asking that it establish responsible standards for recusal by judges who accepted campaign contributions from plaintiffs and defendants in cases they are hearing.

It is neither judicially right or democratically wise for Republican justices to continue to vote along party lines in ways that advantage partisan Republicans by failing to protect the integrity of the right of Americans to vote, the integrity of financing the elections they vote in and the integrity of the districts in which they vote.

If Kennedy joins the liberal justices in striking down the Wisconsin map, the precedent could affect about one-third of all districts drawn for Congress and state legislatures.

The secret to advocacy before the contemporary Supreme Court is no secret: it's all about pandering to Justice Anthony Kennedy. A partisan gerrymander tries to maximise the opponent's wasted votes by "packing" and "cracking"-creating a few safe districts that they win overwhelmingly, while spreading the rest of their voters as thinly as possible". But the majority of the most obnoxiously gerrymandered states - including Wisconsin, where the case of Gill v. Whitford originated - are controlled by Republicans.

Legislative districts in the 50 US states, redrawn every decade after the national census to reflect population changes, represent the individual components of representative democracy.

The writer, a professor at Harvard Law School, is one of the lawyers on an amicus brief in the case on behalf of Republican state officials. Murphy conceded it would be.

In a well-functioning democratic republic, each vote must be counted and also needs to have a chance of counting. If the Court rules against class action waivers, employers will need to review and revise any agreements containing them.

A lower court had already issued a ruling for Wisconsin to draw up a new redistricting plan by the Fall. Samuel Alito also sneered, suggesting that a single paper by a "young researcher" hardly provides an adequate basis for the justices to meddle in elections across the country.

As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his remarks on the Wisconsin case October 3, the courts "authority and legitimacy" would be hurt if it struck down legislative districts in so many states.

Does the Court now have the tools to ascertain a party gerrymander that Justice Kennedy said was needed to outlaw partisan gerrymandering? "A pinch of this, a pinch of that?" he asked.

Because of the specific issues involved in the Wisconsin map case, IL is unlikely to be affected even if the high court strikes down Wisconsin gerrymandering as unconstitutional.

The challengers received some muscular support. That would have the potential to undermine Republican control of the House of Representatives as well as several state legislatures. Gerrymandering is usually accomplished by concentrating voters who tend to favor a particular party in a small number of districts to reduce their statewide voting power - called packing - while scattering others in districts in numbers too small to be a majority - called cracking.

The Supreme Court has not done much in the way of marijuana legalization as it has done in other major social issues, such as civil rights in the 1950's and 60's or gay rights in more recent years.

Torchinsky noted the Supreme Court's ruling, if it found that there is no identifiable legal standard that can be used to define extreme partisan gerrymandering, could make the Pennsylvania case moot.

Some liberal justices wondered what would happen to voters if partisan gerrymandering made election results preordained. The precious right to vote, if you can stack a legislature in this way, what incentive is there for a voter to exercise his vote? The highlight of was, without doubt, Ruth Bader-Ginsburg's exchange with Trump's only "win" since he took office, Justice Gorsuch.

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