'Historic Opportunity': Supreme Court to Hear Partisan Gerrymandering Case

'Historic Opportunity': Supreme Court to Hear Partisan Gerrymandering Case”

The US Supreme Court announced Monday it would hear a case about possible gerrymandering in the drawing up of Congressional district boundaries, a running sore point between Republicans and Democrats.

Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing electoral maps to benefit one's own political party. 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.

A panel of three federal judges earlier this year struck down state house district maps drawn in 2011 by Wisconsin's Republican controlled legislature, finding the resulting districts so blatantly partisan that they denied Democrats a fair shot at electing candidates of their choosing.

In a 2004 case, Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that instead of focusing on the equal protection clause in considering gerrymandering, courts should perhaps stress "the 1st Amendment interest of not burdening or penalizing citizens because of their participation in the electoral process, their voting history, their association with a political party, or their expression of political views".

In the meantime, state lawmakers have used political affiliation as a way to draw electoral maps, and an increasing chorus of political groups blames partisan gerrymandering for a growing divide in Congress and state legislatures.

Republicans disagree, and Republican legislative leaders have already hired two high profile law firms to represent them before the Supreme Court.

Late previous year a lower federal court, splitting 2-1, adopted a modified form of this efficiency gap test and struck down Wisconsin's map.

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J. Wesley Leckrone, Associate Professor at Widener University, told Radio Sputnik that the Supreme Court decision to hear the case shows the extent to which gerrymandering has affected American politics.

The Republican party now controls a majority of state legislatures and, thus, re-districting in most states.

In a statement released Monday, Wisconsin's Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel said the state's redistricting was constitutional.

He said the compactness of a district - and how squiggly or rectangular it was - was rarely a good indication of how gerrymandered it is. The case, Gill v. Whitford, concerns Wisconsin's legislature and its gerrymandering efforts in 2011. To see more, visit KUT 90.5. "Technology has made it easier than ever for self-interested legislators to manipulate districts for political advantage, so it is essential that courts step in to protect voters' fundamental constitutional rights". Republicans can argue that rigging the maps is legal, but anyone who believes in a truly representative democracy knows it is not right.

The appeals court found that Wisconsin's map was meant to entrench one party in power over the life of the districting plan. "The Supreme Court's ruling could give us back our right to have our vote count".

But the cases are very different: The Wisconsin case revolves around whether partisanship played too large a role into redistricting, while the Texas case focuses on race.

The state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that recent Wisconsin election results favoring Republicans were "a reflection of Wisconsin's natural political geography" with Democrats concentrated in urban areas like Milwaukee and Madison.

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