Supreme Court took on gerrymandering case, could dramatically change future elections


The case, which the court will hear in the nine-month term that starts in October, could open the way for a new wave of election litigation.

But the dozen plaintiffs - voters - said the evidence laid out in a trial in the Wisconsin case showed that "Republican legislative leaders authorized a secretive and exclusionary mapmaking process aimed at securing for their party a large advantage that would persist no matter what happened in future elections".

The Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue of race and congressional district-drawing, most recently last month when it rejected two North Carolina districts, as The Two-Way reported.

In the election following adoption of the new maps, Wisconsin Republicans got just 48.6 percent of the statewide vote, but captured a 60-to-39 seat advantage in the State Assembly. In 2014, the party garnered 52 percent of the vote and 63 state Assembly seats. The justices have never struck down a state's electoral map because it was unfairly partisan, though they have outlawed gerrymandering along racial lines.

The Republican party now controls a majority of state legislatures and, thus, re-districting in most states.

The fifth and decisive vote was cast by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who left the door open to revisiting the issue if a manageable test could be found for evaluating how much is too much partisanship.

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Their pursuit of raw political power and unfair partisan advantage undermines the integrity of our elections and shakes the foundations of our democracy. "The right and freedom of every citizen to meaningfully participate in choosing who works for them in the legislature must be protected and I am hopeful that our highest court will do that by finding what politicians did in Wisconsin is unconstitutional", said Sen.

Wisconsin Republicans drew the maps in 2011 after they took full control of state government in the 2010 elections. In other districts, Democrats were so well represented it limited voters' ability to elect Democrats in other districts. They say their rights were violated by Republican-drawn maps that pack Democratic voters into blue legislative districts, in turn, making competitive districts more favorable to Republicans.

Four justices - only Justice Clarence Thomas remains of that group - said it was not the court's business to make such decisions.

In the past, the courts have deferred on answering whether partisan gerrymandering is constitutional or not for the simple fact that it inserts the judiciary into a "political question". After all, the Court's 1962 Baker v. Carr one-person-one-vote decision on districting had been an unprecedented intervention in the American political process, but also one that could be implemented by a simple formula yielding consistent outcomes and little need for ongoing supervision (take the number of people in a state and divide by the number of districts). Partisan gerrymandering has distorted our political system and disenfranchised voters for far too long.

Late past year a lower federal court, splitting 2-1, adopted a modified form of this efficiency gap test and struck down Wisconsin's map. But the high court could ultimately establish a new limit on the role politics plays into redistricting. "In this case, a lower court held that Wisconsin had indeed crossed that line".