Supreme Court to review partisan redistricting

Supreme Court to review partisan redistricting

The Supreme Court has been reluctant to tackle partisan gerrymandering and sort through arguments about whether an electoral system is rigged or, instead, a party's political advantage is due to changing attitudes and demographics, as Wisconsin Republicans contend.

It's the high court's first case on what's known as partisan gerrymandering in more than a decade, and the outcome could affect elections across the country. A lower court struck down the districts as unconstitutional a year ago.

The issue will be briefed and argued in the Supreme Court term that begins in October.

The justices could say as early as Monday whether they will intervene.

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.

That divide could be significant.

Republicans who control the state legislature assured the court that they could draw new maps in time for the 2018 elections, if the court strikes down the districts.

The team working on behalf of the Democratic voters contends that it has found a way to measure unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders created to give a "large and durable" advantage in elections to one party - a measure that the Supreme Court has said was lacking in previous cases contending a partisan gerrymander. Computer software increasingly helps them create safe districts for their most conservative and liberal candidates, whose success invariably leads to more partisan gridlock in government.

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Democrats have accused Republicans of taking improper actions at the state level to suppress the turnout of minority voters and others who tend to support Democrats and maximize the number of party members in state legislatures and the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Supreme Court has never struck down districts because of unfair partisan advantage, although it has intervened frequently in disputes over race and redistricting over the past 50 years.

"Wisconsin lawmakers have maintained that our state's redistricting process and legislative maps are legal and constitutional, and we look forward to the Court's final decision, which we are confident will affirm our position", Vos and Fitzgerald said. Kennedy didn't dismiss the court's ability to strike down a partisan map and said that if some standard was defined, the court could potentially step in to strike down a partisan gerrymander. "Partisan gerrymandering of this kind is worse now than at any time in recent memory".

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

They were able to amplify Republican voting power, gaining more seats than their percentage of the statewide vote would suggest.

The federal court that struck down the districts adopted an equation that offers a way to measure the partisan nature of the districts. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the method, which was not wholly adopted by the lower court, "counts the number of votes each party wastes in an election to determine whether either party enjoyed a systematic advantage in turning votes into seats".

A dozen Wisconsin Democratic Party voters in 2015 sued state election officials, saying the redistricting divided Democratic voters in some areas and packed them in others to dilute their electoral clout and benefit Republican candidates.

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.

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