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Wisconsin election maps to stand following U.S. Supreme Court decision

23 June, 2018, 01:09 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Supreme Court decides not to decide on constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering

Foes of gerrymandering - who had hoped that the Justices would use the cases to weigh in on how congressional districts should be constituted - were disappointed with the rulings.

The district stretches from the liberal Washington suburbs of Montgomery County to conservative western Maryland. That is new information, but it's unlikely to affect the central questions of the gerrymandering debate - only the route by which those questions are resolved.

"While Democrats would like to replicate the success of our REDMAP program from 2010, the success of that program is based on having candidates and policies that voters want, which is how Republicans flipped almost 1,000 seats during the Obama Administration on lines largely drawn by Democrats", said Matt Walter, President of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

The case: A federal lawsuit filed June 13 and backed by a national Democratic redistricting group alleges the U.S. House maps approved in 2011 illegally limit the voting influence of black residents by packing a large number into one majority-minority district and spreading other black voters out among multiple districts.

(Undated) - The U.S. Supreme Court was expected to make a defining decision on extreme partisan gerrymandering this term. "But the court permitted lawsuits against unfair maps to continue", said Dale Ho, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Monday's decision only focused on whether an injunction should have been granted to toss out the boundaries. "I would have remanded this case with instructions to dismiss", Justice Thomas wrote. Maryland's Democratic-led legislature reconfigured the district in a way that led to the defeat of a Republican congressman. The district was held by Republican Representative Roscoe Bartlett until it was redrawn in 2011 to be more heavily Democratic.

The Wisconsin case was sent back to the lower courts with the direction that the challengers establish their "standing" to sue as individuals directly harmed by the gerrymander.

At the argument, Roberts anxious that regardless of what the justices" rationale is in deciding whether Republicans or Democrats win these claims, "The intelligent man on the street will say, "That's a bunch of baloney.' ..." Yes, the court could decide to hear a similar case involving Republican line-drawing in North Carolina this fall. Unlike the Wisconsin case, one of the North Carolina cases has plaintiffs from every congressional district.

"I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it's possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats", he said.

The Court has been thinking and writing about the partisan gerrymandering question for 45 years but has never come up with the formula for judging when it would be unconstitutional.

Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution, agrees that today's ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court will have no bearing on Pennsylvania's new congressional map.

Chief Justice John Roberts said the voters lacked the legal standing to bring the case forward because the alleged disadvantage placed on Democratic voters only affected individual legislative districts and not the state as a whole.

Under normal circumstances, Roberts wrote, "we usually direct the dismissal" of the case.

"This is definitely not the end of the road", said Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Elections Project which organized and brought the lawsuit. GOP lawmakers, who have been elected under the map since 2012, get even more time to pass laws that may not reflect the real wishes of state voters.

Yes we always had gerrymandering - but it was not until the precision of computers that it reached a point that made people give up on their democracy. In the next election, in 2014, the plan resulted in Republicans winning 63 of 99 state Assembly seats with only 52 percent of the vote. Wisconsin's Republican legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, issued a joint statement in reaction saying they were pleased with the decision and were confident they would ultimately win.

Last month, OH voters passed a ballot issue that amends the state's Constitution by putting rules in place aimed at creating districts after the 2020 Census that make geographic sense instead of those drawn for partisan gain.

The two cases before the court illustrate the bare-knuckles practice both parties have used to maximize and perpetuate their own power through the re-drawing of legislative district lines.



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