Justices Could Take Up High-Stakes Fight Over Electoral Maps

by Abel Hampton June 20, 2017, 0:56
Justices Could Take Up High-Stakes Fight Over Electoral Maps

Indeed, even in announcing that the Court will hear the case, the justices indicated that there is still considerable support for Scalia's approach. "This request in front of the Supreme Court isn't created to help the people of Wisconsin". The stay was opposed by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen, the court's four liberal-leaning justices.

The Wisconsin case seems promising because the lower court said it found a way to measure the partisan nature of the districts.

Tell us what you'd like to know more about on Facebook and Twitter. It demanded that the legislature draw new district lines by this November.

Schimel says the stay "preserves the Legislature's time, effort and resources while this case is pending". He said he doesn't believe the court will rule until possibly the middle of 2018.

"The court is surely aware that this decade produced some of the most aggressive partisan gerrymandering in the modern era", Pildes said.

According to the plaintiffs in Gill v. Whitford, Republicans in Wisconsin accomplished their politically-motivated gerrymandering via two techniques: packing and cracking.

"Correct", responded Marc Elias, who was general counsel for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Kenneth Ripple, the author of that opinion, wrote, "We conclude ... that the evidence establishes that one of the purposes of [the district map] was to secure Republican control of the Assembly under any likely future electoral scenario for the remainder of the decade, in other words to entrench the Republican Party in power".

The case will set a legal precedent on the long-time political practice.

Wisconsin voter William Whitford is the lead plaintiff in the case against state elections commissioner Beverly Gill. In addition, Republican legislative leaders hired a pair of law firms to represent them before the Supreme Court. GOP lawmakers defend the maps, as does state Attorney General Brad Schimel.

Democrats accused Republicans of using the districting process to disadvantage Democratic voters. Although such gerrymanders are a form a viewpoint discrimination, which violates the First Amendment, Republican appointees to the Supreme Court have been reluctant to even let federal courts consider partisan gerrymandering cases - much less strike down actual gerrymanders.

The appeals court found that Wisconsin's map was meant to entrench one party in power over the life of the districting plan. That weakened African-American voting strength elsewhere in the state, the court said.

In a 2-1 ruling, the court found that the districts were drawn in order to minimize the influence of Democratic votes, and were "designed to make it more hard for Democrats, compared to Republicans, to translate their votes into seats", the majority opinion concluded. Dissenting was U.S. Chief Judge William Griesbach of Milwaukee. Oral arguments are expected to take place after the high court convenes in October.

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.

Under the approach, developed by two University of Chicago professors, every voter packed into a district above the threshold needed to elect a candidate from his party creates a "surplus" vote. Critics sued, calling the new political boundaries unfair to Democrat voters. North Carolina's congressional delegation tilts 10-3 Republican.

Both parties have tried to get the largest partisan edge when they control redistricting. As measured by this "efficiency gap", Republicans can increase the number of the districts they control by stuffing Democratic voters into already Democratic districts. "The effect of this is a serious problem for our democracy".

"We are hopeful that the decision to hear this case will be the first step in addressing the partisan gerrymandering that is now shaping the House of Representatives as well as state legislatures across the country".


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