Supreme Court to review partisan redistricting

Supreme Court to review partisan redistricting”

The court in a separate order delayed the drawing of new state Assembly district boundaries.

The issue has torn the court for decades. At the same time, the court agreed to hear a case next term testing whether there is a constitutional limit to how much partisanship one party can use in drawing legislative maps.

State officials, including Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, urged the Supreme Court to take up the case, arguing that the map "complies with traditional redistricting principles".

The Supreme Court had discussed the case at its June 8 and June 15 conferences, according to the court's docket on the case.

This is the second time justices have acted on gerrymandering this year.

Sachin Chheda (SAH'-chihn CHAY'-dah) is director of the Fair Elections Project, which organized and launched the lawsuit. Justices also put on hold an earlier ruling requiring that new maps be drawn by November. They said the federal court overstepped its bounds and judges should stay out of an inherently political exercise.

The high court case could affect pending legal disputes over Republican-drawn maps in North Carolina and Pennsylvania and a Democratic-drawn map in Maryland. He said the Wisconsin case, along with others, "will halt these illegal maps, now and in the future". In addition, Wisconsin GOP legislative leaders hired a pair of law firms to represent them before the Supreme Court.

The justices won't hear the arguments until the fall, but the case has already taken on a distinctly ideological, if not partisan, tone.

The plaintiffs claimed the laws were unconstitutional, violating voters' rights to due process and equal protection under the law.

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.

But the fifth and decisive vote was cast by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who left the door open to revisiting the issue if a manageable test could be found for evaluating how much is too much partisanship. 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. That weakened African-American voting strength elsewhere in the state, the court said. The ruling was the first time in over three decades that a federal court invalidated a redistricting plan for partisan bias. "California's model was created to prevent any party from overreaching". One such standard - dubbed the "efficiency gap" - counts the number of "wasted" votes for winning candidates in districts purposely packed with the opposition party's voters, as well as for losing candidates in districts where those voters were purposely scattered. "It's a mess for democracy if people still have to operate under maps that are unconstitutionally drawn".

In 2012, Republicans won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote for Assembly candidates but captured 60 of the Assembly's 99 seats.

Gerrymandering is the practice of one party packing as many voters of the other party into the fewest districts possible.

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