Supreme Court to Review Partisan Redistricting in Wisconsin Case
Jun 20, 2017, 00:53
By its order, the Supreme Court has apparently chose to take the case in its next term, calling it officially a postponement of a decision on jurisdiction.
In a possible sign of deep ideological divisions among the nine justices over the issue, the court's conservative majority granted Wisconsin's request, despite opposition from the four liberal justices, to put on hold the lower court's order requiring the state to redraw its electoral maps by November 1.
There also are questions, in this particular case, on whether a court may hear a challenge to a redistricting plan based upon a claim of partisan gerrymandering if the challenge is statewide, and not district-by-district, and on whether the state's Republican leaders had been denied any chance to defend their plan under the formula that the lower court had only disclosed in announcing its final decision.
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of Wisconsin legislative districts as drawn by majority Republicans in 2011.
The Supreme Court will take up a momentous fight over parties manipulating electoral districts to gain partisan advantage in a case that could affect the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans across the United States. There, Democrats have a weaker case for countering gerrymandering on racial grounds but would have a strong case if it could make an argument on partisanship.
A decision to uphold the ruling, on the other hand, would send courts across the U.S. head-first into a legal thicket, where they would be asked to glean legislative intent in district-drawing and pore over electoral maps and data to discern evidence of imbalance.
Venturing into what one justice recently called the "always unsavory" process of drawing election districts for partisan advantage, the court will try to set a standard - something it has failed to do in the past.
Wisconsin's attorney general appealed to the Supreme Court. He says Democrats proved in court that their rights were violated and "now this story will be told on a national stage". The four liberals (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) dissented.
In many past years, the courts redrew the state Senate and Assembly lines because state government was split along party lines, but in 2011, Republicans had swept into power and did the job themselves. And "that work is proceeding".
A dozen Wisconsin Democratic Party voters filed suit in 2015 against state election officials over the redistricting, saying the Republican-backed plan divided Democratic voters in some areas and packed them in others in order to dilute their electoral clout and benefit Republican candidates. I mean, yes, it's true that the party in power wins, and they get to do their policy and so on, but when it comes to who wins, in a democracy we think that people should have their say.
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The Constitution requires states to redo their political maps to reflect population changes identified in the once-a-decade census.
"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.
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