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Justices to hear what could be landmark election case

Justices to hear what could be landmark election case”

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear a case that challenges partisan gerrymandering, and whether the districting that generally aids Republican candidates is unconstitutional.

The political maps the state's Republican lawmakers drew in 2011 are headed to the nation's highest court.

In another free speech case, the court struck down a North Carolina law that barred convicted sex offenders from using Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites that are available to children.

"For too long, the important task of redistricting has resembled a back-alley brawl: no rules, no referees, and no holds barred", Dan Vicuña, the national redistricting manager for Common Cause, said in a statement.

"Prior to the last decennial redistricting in 2010, voters approved an independent redistricting commission that was tasked with applying specific redistricting criteria that excluded consideration of incumbency and moreover prohibited drawing districts to favor an incumbent, candidate, or political party", said a statement from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Voters have a right to expect fair and competitive elections.

Conversely, the three congressional Democrats won with over two-thirds of the votes in their respective districts. The Supreme Court hasn't weighed in on the issue in more than a decade and could be sharply divided. As measured by this "efficiency gap", Republicans can increase the number of the districts they control by stuffing Democratic voters into already Democratic districts. The ruling was the first on over 30 years that declared district lines to be unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. Under those maps in 2012, Republicans captured 61 percent of state assembly seats while winning 48.6 percent of the statewide vote. And if a Democrat got a lot of votes there, but they only get one seat, they're saying that they wasted a lot of votes to get those seats.

But it has never disallowed a map on the ground that it was drawn to give an unfair advantage to a political party.

The challenge for the Supreme Court now is to articulate a standard for determining when "politics as usual" is actually a constitutional violation - and which part of the Constitution is being violated.

If the Court took the very unlikely but possible step of setting a standard to overturn partisan gerrymanders, then the implications and ramifications would be far reaching since numerous states now have partisan gerrymanders similar to Wisconsin's.

In Maryland, Republican voters have filed a lawsuit alleging Democrats gerrymandered seats there and Democrats in Pennsylvania have also filed a lawsuit alleging gerrymandering by the Republicans. Schimel urged the Supreme Court to consider the matter. They have traditionally wanted to stay out of this because they felt it was too political and they did not want to get involved in political decision-making. Democratic voters are clustered in cities such as Milwaukee and Madison, while Republican voters are more evenly spread out.

"This has become such a big problem in the U.S., we have been so bitterly partisan divided over the last decade or so and the redistribution process has been one of the things that people point to when we talk about why we are so bitterly divided".

The court - after orders were released - issued a separate order granting Wisconsin's request to freeze the current maps until the Supreme Court hears the case next term. If decided correctly, this case could be absolutely crucial to restoring a level playing field, especially in state legislatures and the U.S. House of Representatives.



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