Supreme Court to hear major gerrymandering case

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a redistricting challenge from Wisconsin, but the arguments in that case are very similar to ones from a challenge against voter districts in North Carolina.

The United States Supreme Court will decide if states may draw voting districts to gain a partisan advantage. In 2012, the first election following the enactment of the new maps, Republicans received only 48.6 percent of the vote but won a 60 to 39 legislative advantage in the State Assembly.

Last year, a divided three-judge Federal District Court panel ruled that Republicans had gone too far. That weakened African-American voting strength elsewhere in the state, the court said.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson says the Republican governor "is confident Wisconsin's redistricting process is constitutional and is pleased to see the Supreme Court take the case". They say their rights were violated by Republican-drawn maps that pack Democratic voters into blue legislative districts, in turn, making competitive districts more favorable to Republicans.

In a possible sign of deep ideological divisions among the nine justices over the issue, the court's conservative majority granted Wisconsin's request, despite opposition from the four liberal justices, to put on hold the lower court's order requiring the state to redraw its electoral maps by November 1.

"They don't look weird", William Whitford, one of the Democratic plaintiffs suing over the Wisconsin map, said Monday on a conference call with reporters. While these districts have allowed minorities to pick their representatives, they have had the unintended effect of limiting minority influence in other districts by packing them into one.

The original case, Gill v. Whitford , was prompted after GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin in 2010, having recently taken hold of both the state legislature and governorship, drew up their new hyper-partisan, gerrymandered State Assembly electoral map. However, the Supreme Court has chose to take on the controversial issue starting in October.

I am thrilled the Supreme Court has granted our request to review the redistricting decision and that Wisconsin will have an opportunity to defend its redistricting process.

So this stay order raises a big question mark for those who think Court will use the case to rein in partisan gerrymandering. He said his state's apportion scheme denies residents the ability to have real choice at the ballot box.

"Drawing new district lines in states with the most redistricting activity presented the opportunity to solidify conservative policymaking at the state level and maintain a Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade", read the report. "In this case, a lower court held that Wisconsin had indeed crossed that line", he told CNN.

"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 Brennan Center redistricting expert Thomas Wolf.

The Supreme Court has been reluctant to tackle partisan gerrymandering and sort through arguments about whether an electoral system is rigged or, instead, a party's political advantage is due to changing attitudes and demographics.

  • Leroy Wright