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Supreme Court puts hold on redrawing WI districts

20 Juin 2017

Should Republicans prevail in this case, we may see more states establish independent commissions to draw their electoral maps - since the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 those are constitutional.

Redistricting experts widely believed justices would hear Wisconsin's appeal because it's so unusual.

While it has regularly invalidated maps for improper racial gerrymandering, the Supreme Court, as noted above, has never struck down a map for excessive partisanship despite 31 years of precedent that partisan gerrymandering could theoretically be unconstitutional. "And by that metric, plaintiffs looked back at redistricting plans throughout the USA, going back to 1972, and Wisconsin's redistricting plan was one of the most strongly political gerrymandered in history". All three are focused on the state's congressional districts where Republicans hold 10 of 13 seats.

Both parties have sought the largest partisan edge when they control redistricting. The case, Gill v. Whitford, concerns Wisconsin's legislature and its gerrymandering efforts in 2011.

Several Democratic voters joined a lawsuit contending this partisan electoral map violated their rights to an equal vote.

If a map is drawn legitimately, it would theoretically waste about the same number of Democrats and Republicans, yielding an efficiency gap of zero. "They are trying to accomplish by delay what they couldn't prove in court".

Wisconsin Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel welcomed the justices' decision to hear the state's appeal and called the state's redistricting process "entirely lawful and constitutional".

The justices should correct the lower court's "flawed analysis before it spreads to other jurisdictions and interferes with the states' fundamental political responsibilities", Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller wrote for 12 Republican-dominated states that are backing Wisconsin. The Supreme Court hasn't weighed in on the issue in more than a decade and could be sharply divided. He has written that maps can be so partisan that they violate voters' rights, but that a standard has not been developed that courts can use to measure when maps should be thrown out because they result in unconstitutional political gerrymandering. Though a "workable standard" defining it did not exist, he suggested one might emerge in a future case.

A ruling that partisan gerrymanders are unlawful would dramatically recast the apportionment process and shuffle the balance of power in Congress and state legislatures.

We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear what potentially could be the most consequential partisan gerrymandering case in years. It demanded that the legislature draw new district lines by this November.

After the 2010 census produced new population estimates the GOP-controlled state assembly redrew the district lines. "There is a point at which the plaintiffs say the lopsidedness of those districts has gone too far and the maps ought to be struck down as being unconstitutional". Cities do it for city council districts.

Although the GOP controls the Statehouse in Iowa through at least 2018, it does not control the congressional and legislative redistricting process here.

There could be challengers in party primaries, but Potter said that can make things more politically polarized, "which I think makes it much harder to have legislators do what the voters say they want, which is to come up and solve problems and figure out how to talk to each other and compromise". In 2014 and 2016, Republicans extended their statehouse advantage to 63 and then 64 seats even though the statewide vote remained almost tied.

The timing of how the case unfolds is especially important.

Supreme Court puts hold on redrawing WI districts