Supreme Court took on gerrymandering case, could dramatically change future elections

While the Supreme Court has previously weighed in on gerrymandering when it comes to race, it has not yet voiced its opinion on whether gerrymandering by political party is legal.

Election results since then have shown the redistricting had its intended effect, with the GOP winning a larger majority in the state assembly, even as the statewide tally of votes was almost even between Republicans and Democrats, the lower court said.

Gerrymandering, a old political art form "as old as the United States itself", King says, is the idea of drawing district lines by structuring them geographically so that they benefit one party or another. The state's lawyers said the districts were compact and neatly drawn.

USA district maps for state and federal elections are drawn up every 10 years following a census. Political parties often use gerrymandering to manipulate district borders to increase their party's share of the vote.

The challenge for the Supreme Court now is to articulate a standard for determining when "politics as usual" is actually a constitutional violation - and which part of the Constitution is being violated.

Voters will be caught in the middle, with many of them being faced with potentially new and different representation because of changes to the districts they now live in. Democrats accuse republicans of gerrymandering - drawing the lines in such a manner that makes it almost impossible for Democrats to win.

The electoral results under the Wisconsin map were remarkably similar to court-drawn maps in past decades, the state's brief states.

It's settled law that you can't gerrymander on racial grounds.

"Wisconsin's gerrymander was one of the most aggressive of the decade, locking in a large and implausibly stable majority for Republicans in what is otherwise a battleground state", said redistricting expert Thomas Wolf of the Brennan Center.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin released a statement calling for "a nonpartisan redistricting process". "We're trying to harm Democrats.' And that may sound somewhat unseemly, but if the court gives its blessing to that sort of regime, then Texas is on a stronger footing going forward".

The trial to hear the North Carolina challenge was set to begin June 26, however that case was continued today after the Supreme Court said it would hear the Wisconsin case, according to Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Which party now benefits the most from gerrymandering?

Critics have argued the current legislative maps unfairly stack the deck for Republicans district by district, pointing to the 2016 presidential election results as an example.

Last November, a federal district court ruled that Republicans' 2011 gerrymandering effort in Wisconsin crossed a line and was unconstitutional.

Has the Supreme Court decided gerrymandering cases in the past?

The Supreme Court is expected to take up the case in the fall and most likely won't rule before early next year. Some justices believe courts have no role to play in a matter best left to elected officials.

The issue centers on whether a party in power can redraw election districts in such a way that a minority party's First Amendment rights and the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection are violated.

  • Leroy Wright