U.S. top court to hear major Wisconsin case on electoral maps

The justices in a brief written order said they would review a redistricting case from Wisconsin, where a three-judge lower court a year ago invalidated a redistricting plan enacted by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature in 2011.

That decision could have far-reaching effects - including in Pennsylvania, which has always been determined as one of the worst-gerrymandered states.

That court said Wisconsin lawmakers redrew the state's legislative districts after the 2010 census to unlawfully maximize the number of Republicans elected and dilute the power of Democratic voters.

States redraw districts for House seats in Congress and for legislative districts in state legislatures.

The case in the short term could affect congressional maps in about half a dozen states and legislative maps in about 10 states, before having major implications for the post-2020 redistricting, according to the New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice. Smith will argue the case before the Supreme Court. The four liberal Justices dissented....

The key question, as always on this Supreme Court, is where Kennedy will land.

The case is expected to have an impact nationally, deciding the standard by which courts can determine whether a redistricting plan is drawn unconstitutionally on the basis of the party affiliation of voters.

Up to one-third of electoral maps in the United States could be affected by the justices' ruling, which is expected in the autumn. Aside from this order postponing jurisdiction, the court opted not to take up any other cases this morning.

The federal court that struck down the districts adopted an equation that offers a way to measure the partisan nature of the districts.

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A lower court struck down Wisconsin's districts ordering new maps draw in time for the 2018 elections.

The Supreme Court has never tossed out a redistricting map based on concerns about partisan (as opposed to racial) gerrymandering.

It is a political act that is as old as the American Republic, drawing its name as a "gerrymander" from a member of the Founding generation, Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, for his infamous state senate districting map so misshapen that it resembled an awkward salamander. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton - all played a role in the state's last round of redistricting, but none had weighed in on the U.S Supreme Court's announcement as of midday Monday. "As I have said before, our redistricting process was entirely lawful and constitutional, and the district court should be reversed". Democrats do the same, but control fewer states.

"As a result, in the first election under the plan", the statement continues, "Republicans won a supermajority of 60 out of 99 seats despite losing the statewide vote for the Assembly". Let's say you have a strongly Democratic district.

The measurement could appeal to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has said he is willing to referee claims of excessively partisan redistricting, but only if the court can find a workable way to do so.

"We've already had two federal courts declare the map unconstitutional in part or whole", said Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Elections Project, which organized and launched the lawsuit on behalf of a group of Democratic voters in Wisconsin.

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

The Democrats say that the 2011 plan was drawn specifically to disenfranchise Democratic voters. The plaintiffs, complaining about an egregious Republican gerrymander of the state legislature, have come up with a new test to measure when politics has over-infiltrated the redistricting process.

  • Toni Ryan