Supreme Court Set to Hear Accusations of Wisconsin Gerrymandering

Cherry blossom trees bloom on the grounds of the U.S. Supreme Court.                       Erika Dimmler

Cherry blossom trees bloom on the grounds of the U.S. Supreme Court. Erika Dimmler

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

"Hyper-partisan gerrymandering is an attack on our democracy".

"The Supreme Court has the opportunity to ensure the maps in Wisconsin are drawn fairly, and further, has the opportunity to create ground rules that safeguard every citizen's right to freely choose their representatives", added Smith, who will argue the case before the justices.

For a better understanding of what the Supreme Court justices will be considering, and what it could mean for North Carolina, WFAE's Mark Rumsey spoke with law professor Guy-Uriel Charles at Duke University. But the court was silent on whether to delay the drawing of new state Assembly district boundaries as ordered by a lower court panel. Those districts were drawn by the Republican state legislature in Wisconsin, and packed Democrats into a smaller number of districts to maximize Republican odds. Postponing the determination of whether the court has jurisdiction could prove to be just a formality, or it could provide a way for the justices to sidestep a ruling on the merits if the case proves too hard - only time will tell. I think our experts said it would take a political quake in Wisconsin for you to actually get Democrats back in control of the house (Assembly.) Even though, in 2012, over 50% of the state voted for Democrat candidates, yet 60% of the Legislature ended up Republican.

The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a lawsuit from Wisconsin challenging the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.

At issue is the question of whether the process of drawing new election district boundaries is unconstitutional if one political party specifically creates maps giving its own candidates a distinct advantage in getting elected, directly limiting the other party's chances at the polls. The Supreme Court will now consider that decision.

The Supreme Court has never tossed out a redistricting map based on concerns about partisan (as opposed to racial) gerrymandering. On Monday, it was clear that these Justices favored that action, although the order did not name them explicitly; Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. "Well, that's as much a political judgment and partisan gerrymander as the one that the plaintiffs alleged to have occurred", Esenberg says. In that case and again in 2006, Kennedy didn't find one. He could be the swing vote in the Wisconsin case.

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The Wisconsin court said that there has to be a point where partisan gerrymandering is so unfair that it violates the Constitution. In 2014, Republicans won 52 percent of the vote and increased their state assembly majority to 63 seats. "Any vote cast for a losing candidate is considered wasted, as are all the votes cast for a winning candidate in excess of the number needed to win".

When the efficiency gap is over 7 percent, it makes it extremely likely the majority party will maintain its electoral majority.

Before 2011, the last two electoral maps were drawn by federal judges after the legislature was unable to reach agreement.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker remains confident that GOP-drawn legislative district maps will survive a Supreme Court review. To impact the next redistricting process, Burden said, such litigation would need to start moving quickly.

A ruling rejecting this standard will send a signal to politicians of all parties that there are virtually no limits to them drawing maps simply in an effort to stay in power.

Walker commented while at a Wausau elementary school touting his education budget plan, which he says will give millions of dollars more in state aid to schools, including $5 million over the next two years for Wausau alone.

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