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losangelesnewstoday.com June 24, 2017


U.S. top court to hear Wisconsin appeal in electoral map dispute

20 June 2017, 12:54 | Amanda Barker

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While courts have overturned legislative district maps based on racial discrimination, judges have shied away from striking down districts drawn to maximize a party's political power.

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.

The justices may have given an early sense for which way they're leaning, issuing an order halting a lower court's ruling that had demanded Wisconsin redraw its maps by November. The case, Gill v. Whitford, concerns Wisconsin's legislature and its gerrymandering efforts in 2011.

In 2016, a federal district court agreed with those Democratic voters, ruling that the state's election map had been drawn for partisan advantage.

The Supreme Court will take up a momentous fight over parties manipulating electoral districts to gain partisan advantage in a case that could affect the balance of power between Democrats and Republicans across the United States.

More broadly, the Court should rule that pure political motivations for election rules are unfair and unlawful.

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.

Yet if the Court reverses the Wisconsin panel's decision and once again rules that there are no judicial tests available to stop partisan gerrymandering, then we can expect ever more egregiously partisan redistricting.

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 pone party - a measure that the Supreme Court has said was lacking in previous cases contending a partisan gerrymander.

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In a 2-1 ruling, the court found that the districts were drawn in order to minimize the influence of Democratic votes, and were "designed to make it more hard for Democrats, compared to Republicans, to translate their votes into seats", the majority opinion concluded.

If the Legislature is forced to draw new maps, they'd have to be more competitive, which would give Democrats a better shot at winning legislative seats than they have right now. "The maps were in place and republicans gained seats in '12, '14, and '16", he said. He says Democrats proved in court that their rights were violated and "now this story will be told on a national stage". Four others-only Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer remain-said such challenges could be heard by the court but disagreed on the method. The court has ruled similarly on Virginia and Alabama racial redistricting plans.

As a outcome, if the law remains as it is, we can expect that state legislatures will simply engage in a form of kabuki theater when they redistrict. If the high court upholds this ruling, it would establish a sweeping precedent that could lead to a wave of lawsuits against widespread partisan gerrymanders nationally. And "that work is proceeding".

The Supreme Court could soon decide whether the drawing of electoral districts can be too political.

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.

Even justices who favor giving lawmakers discretion to draw district lines hold their noses when it comes to how they do it.

Democrats hope a favorable decision will help them cut into Republican electoral majorities.

The Constitution requires states to redo their political maps to reflect population changes identified in the once-a-decade census. This is accomplished by either "packing" voters from these groups into districts the other party is going to win anyway, or "cracking" them into a number of different legislative districts so that they fall somewhat short of a majority in each one.



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