The Supreme Court will not save our democracy

Manuel Balce Ceneta  AP FILE

Partisan breakdown: State Assembly: 64 Republicans, 35 Democrats. Turnout plummeted as well; between 2012 and 2016, Wisconsin suffered the second-biggest decline in voter participation nationwide.

People line up outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington to hear arguments in a case about political maps in Wisconsin that could affect elections across the country, October 3, 2017.

The court handed a victory to Wisconsin Republicans who drew state electoral districts that helped entrench their party in power, voting 9-0 to throw out a lower court ruling that the districts deprived Democratic voters of their constitutional rights, including equal protection under the law.

"I write to address in more detail what kind of evidence the present plaintiffs (or any additional ones) must offer to support that allegation". It was Kennedy who in the 2004 partisan gerrymander case, Vieth v. Jubelirer, kept the door open to viewing these cases through the lens of the First Amendment. The decision could make it more hard for challengers of the practice to bring cases in the future. The incumbent in the challenged district is not running for reelection.

The justices understandably want a rigorous and robust foundation upon which to set a precedent.

"Courts - and in particular this court - will again be called on to redress extreme partisan gerrymanders", Justice Elena Kagan predicted. Worse still, it creates an unnecessarily partisan path to challenging statewide maps.

The Supreme Court in 1986 actually said that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional when the election system "is arranged in a manner that will consistently degrade a voter's or a group of voters' influence", but as New York University election law professor Richard Pildes observed Monday, in the three decades since that decision, the high court has refused to enforce it with any teeth.

The Supreme Court's much-awaited gerrymandering decisions were released on Monday, and they landed with a resounding meh.

It doesn't have to be this way.

-Is there a workable way to measure how much politics is too much?

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The Supreme Court is still considering whether to take up a North Carolina case involving similar issues. The high court is considering whether to schedule arguments on an appeal.

"Remedying the individual voter's harm, therefore, does not necessarily require restructuring of all the state's legislative districts", he said. The plaintiffs in this case are individual voters who sought to challenge a statewide gerrymander. The court said the challenges should instead be brought district by district and sent the case back to a trio of federal judges who will determine whether the challengers can modify their lawsuit with plaintiffs in each district.

Partisan gerrymanders have "become ever more extreme and durable, insulating officeholders against all but the most titanic shifts in the political tides", she wrote. Gerrymandered legislatures nationwide have pushed aggressively for voter ID bills, culled voting rolls and limited early voting.

In Maryland, Republicans sued over a single congressional district that was redrawn in 2011, as the state's Democratic former governor said, to turn a Republican seat Democratic.

Just last week in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Supreme Court upheld Ohio's policies of purging voters from the rolls after not participating in three federal elections (and not responding to official notices mailed to their homes). That gave them control of both houses in 25 states.

To see what the impact of major gains at the state level can mean for the long-term fate of a party, Democrats need only look across the aisle. The lower court has ruled that the Republican-led Legislature engaged in unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering when it redrew districts in 2016 in response to a previous court ruling that the 2011 districts were an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

Wisconsin Democrats, as a recent Politico article points out, are rebuilding their party after a sobering 2016 presidential election.

There is some hope.

The stakes are huge: the balance of power in state legislatures and Congress could tip in coming years, particularly after the 2020 census, when voting boundaries will be redrawn based on population changes. But even as those cases have moved through the courts, legislators from those states have voted on health care, immigration, taxes and other important issues. Their test included a measure known as the "efficiency gap", which focuses on how frequently votes are effectively wasted, either because they go to a candidate who loses or because they provide the victor with more support than was necessary to prevail.