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Supreme Court to review partisan redistricting

19 Juin 2017

The grant of Wisconsin's petition to leave the current districts in place until SCOTUS rules on the constitutional law of the case probably means the decision will not occur in time to affect the 2018 elections there or in any other states.

"North Carolina shouldn't hold another session or have another budget voted on by an unconstitutional legislature", Cooper said in a statement. GOP lawmakers defend the maps, as does state Attorney General Brad Schimel.

"Texas is one of the states that has high partisan bias on its congressional map, mainly because it has not created enough Latino opportunity districts, and that has both a racial impact and a partisan impact", Li said. But those instances hinged on racial makeup of districts, whereas the Wisconsin case hinges more explicitly on partisan gerrymandering. This formula is now the subject of a federal lawsuit, Whitford v. Nichol, which has survived two motions, submitted by defenders of Wisconsin's Republican-drawn maps, that sought to kill the case.

Kenneth Ripple, the author of that opinion, wrote, "We conclude ... that the evidence establishes that one of the purposes of [the district map] was to secure Republican control of the Assembly under any likely future electoral scenario for the remainder of the decade, in other words to entrench the Republican Party in power". The high court determined 28 legislative districts were created to dilute the overall influence of black voters.

Now, however, the Wisconsin case will confront the high court with raw politics, not race. Yet Democrats are more supportive of having courts rein in extreme districting plans, mainly because Republicans control more legislatures and drew districts after the 2010 census that enhanced their advantage in those states and in the House of Representatives.

The judges said the redrawing violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law and free speech by undercutting the ability of Democratic voters to turn their votes into seats in the Wisconsin state legislature.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly will redraw the lines as soon as someone figures out what rules they want followed, Collins said. Democratic voters are clustered in cities such as Milwaukee and Madison, while Republican voters are more evenly spread across the state. In Virginia, where President Trump lost handily, Republicans have 66 of 100 seats in the House of Delegates. Democrats do the same, but control fewer states. If you would look at a map of the state by voting outcome, those two areas of the state would be densely blue, but most of the rest of the state would be red with patches of blue.

As a result, congressional lines have become ever more partisan in recent years.

It was statistical measurement of how many votes in each party were wasted, either because they were so diluted in a district they could never achieve a majority or because they were so concentrated in a district that they were in excess of what was needed to get a majority.

(There are special procedural provisions, including one for a three-judge trial court, that are used in election law cases of this sort.) In a subsequent order, the court directed the Wisconsin legislature to redistrict in a less partisan manner.

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. But the court was silent on whether to delay the drawing of new state Assembly district boundaries as ordered by a lower court panel. For this reason, several other justices have opined that no such standard exists, and that claims of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering are not susceptible to judicial review.

Justices also put on hold an earlier ruling requiring that new maps be drawn by November.

Supreme Court to review partisan redistricting