Sunday, 22 October, 2017

Wisconsin AG 'thrilled' high court to hear case

ZACH GIBSON  GETTY IMAGES ZACH GIBSON GETTY IMAGES
Garry Little | 20 June, 2017, 00:42

"In 2004, a four-member Supreme Court plurality all but ruled out challenges to even extreme partisan gerrymanders, while four members of the court would have allowed some limited challenges".

The case under review comes from Wisconsin, but about one-third of the maps drawn for Congress and state legislatures could be affected by the justices' ruling.

Democrats challenged the map as a partisan gerrymander violating the Constitution. "It's a symptom of politics going haywire and something that we increasingly see when one party has sole control of the redistricting process".

"As I have said before, our redistricting process was entirely lawful and constitutional, and the district court should be reversed", Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said.

For instance, Democrats in charge of the Maryland legislature have divvied up Democratic base voters in the DC suburbs and Baltimore into large a number of districts, while concentrating Republicans in more rural parts of the state in a smaller number of districts. The court has ruled similarly on Virginia and Alabama racial redistricting plans.

"This case represents the first time in 31 years that a lower court struck down a district plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander", the center added.

The case is expected to have an impact nationally, deciding the standard by which courts can determine whether a redistricting plan is drawn unconstitutionally on the basis of the party affiliation of voters.

Twelve Republican-dominated states are supporting Wisconsin in its defense of the 2011 redistricting plan. Democrats do the same, but control fewer states. Instead, the GOP controlled the House with a 234-201 majority.

As a result, congressional lines have become ever more partisan in recent years. In 2012, Republicans got just 48.6 percent of the vote statewide, but won 60 of the state's 99 Assembly districts. Packing is fairly self-explanatory: the state legislature stuffs the opposition party's voters into a single district, thus diluting each individual vote.

Earlier this year a panel of three federal judges struck down Wisconsin state House district maps, drawn in 2011 by the state's Republican-majority legislature. But the court was silent on whether to delay the drawing of new state Assembly district boundaries as ordered by a lower court panel.

Legendary journalist Lyle Denniston is Constitution Daily's Supreme Court correspondent.

The nation's highest court announced its decision to take the case in a brief order Monday.

That's because the SCOTUS has agreed to hear a case out of Wisconsin concerning the partisan nature of gerrymandering, and whether or not this renders the practice unconstitutional.

The high court has been willing to invalidate state electoral maps on the grounds of racial discrimination, as it did on May 22 when it found that Republican legislators in North Carolina had drawn two electoral districts to diminish the statewide political clout of black voters.

The measurement could appeal to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has said he is willing to referee claims of excessively partisan redistricting, but only if the court can find a workable way to do so. Any method of drawing districts will favor Republicans, they contend. Adopting a test for courts to strike down partisan gerrymanders would go a long way to ensuring that fair elections, not unfair election rules, decide who wins. Others say courts should step in. They call their metric the "efficiency gap", calculated by taking the difference between the number of "wasted votes" for each party, and dividing that difference by the total number of votes.

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