Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Supreme Court to Review Partisan Redistricting in Wisconsin Case

Sandy Vega | 23 June, 2017, 08:09

The justices agreed to hear arguments on a Wisconsin map that a lower court said was created to keep Republicans in control of the state legislature even if they didn't win a majority of the votes.

The justices may have given an early sense for which way they're leaning, issuing an order halting a lower court's ruling that had demanded Wisconsin redraw its maps by November.

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 Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

The Supreme Court will take up the most important gerrymandering case in more than a decade, it announced Monday. The process is supposed to ensure that voters in each state are properly represented in Congress. Gerrymandering-the drawing of congressional districts to favor one party over another by packing it full of a disproportionate number of one party's voters-is a practice both Democrats and Republicans use. While the court has previously ruled that partisanship in redrawing an election map can be illegal, it has never defined the ruling party's limit in power.

"The only way the legislature could have attained plaintiffs' desired election results would have been to engage in heroic levels of nonpartisan statesmanship by abandoning Republicans' advantage under court-drawn plans, including by adopting a plan under which incumbents were more likely to lose their seats", the appeal argued.

As a result, in 2012 the Republicans managed to win 60 seats in the 99-seat Assembly, despite winning 49 percent of the two-party vote.

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The challengers to the Wisconsin districts said it is an extreme example of redistricting that has led to ever-increasing polarization in American politics because so few districts are genuinely competitive between the parties.

Twelve Republican-dominated states are supporting Wisconsin in its defense of the 2011 redistricting plan.

Wisconsin's partisan gerrymander - created in 2011 by legislative aides and hired consultants in a secret room in a private law office - employed the latest mapping technology to create a district plan that is one of the most extremely gerrymandered state legislative plans in the last four decades. That goes beyond being unfair, it also may be unconstitutional, so the nation's highest court has agreed to take the case. The measure failed a court challenge brought by an attorney with connections to House Speaker Michael Madigan and the Illinois Democratic Party. We proved in federal court that Democrats and Republicans are pretty evenly clustered throughout the state and that Democrats in Wisconsin have had their rights violated. In the process, the Supreme Court will decide the rules every other state has to follow too. In 2014 and 2016, Republicans extended their statehouse advantage to 63 and then 64 seats even though the statewide vote remained almost tied.

A supreme court ruling faulting the Wisconsin redistricting plan could have far-reaching consequences for the redrawing of electoral districts that is due after the 2020 U.S. census.

In racial gerrymandering, map lines are drawn to lower the influence of minority voters, who tend to vote in favour of the Democratic Party.


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