Not Your Father's Gerrymandering, Lawyer Warns High Court

The lower court concluded that the districting plans were drawn to discriminate against Democrats, the Republicans' advantage would endure even in the face of a strong Democratic showing at the polls and the plans could not be explained by other, non-partisan reasons. Democrat voters challenged the voter districts that Republican lawmakers drew in 2011, arguing they crossed a constitutional line in manipulating maps for Republican advantage.

The best, although imperfect solution, to gerrymandering is to turn redistricting duties over to independent bipartisan commissions in each state that would draw new maps. The term, coined in the early 19th century, mixes "salamander"- the shape of some districts after redrawing-and "Gerry" after the governor (Elridge Gerry) who in 1812 signed a bill redistricting MA to benefit his party. Luckily other states have created the laws, and the computer software, to draw legislative districts based on nonpartisan factors such as population, county and town borders, and contiguity of land area. Using sophisticated computer modelling and thousands of alternative maps, Wisconsin Republicans mustered new lines delivering them almost two-thirds of the state Assembly seats in 2012 and 2016 despite a voting bloc comprising only about half of the electorate. "I suspect that's manageable".

But as I and others have argued, gerrymandering has contributed only marginally to Republican success. Gorsuch suggested it was up to the U.S. Congress to clearly specify what those crimes are.

"We have the chance, with this case, to put power back into the hands of the people whose rights are under attack".

Spakovsky said, "If the Supreme Court recognizes political gerrymandering as a violation of the Constitution, I think it will cause chaos throughout the country".

But the parties are otherwise sharply divided, with Republicans arguing that courts should not be involved in the competition between the parties to wring gains out of redrawn electoral maps.

"You wouldn't want to assume that some African American from a different part of the state has a collective interest with people over here in this party of the state just because of race", Smith said. But perhaps more important, the technological advances that have enabled this kind of surgically precise remapping of voting districts - the same big data used by political campaigns to target likely voters - is only expected to get more advanced. If it does not, that's a sign the gerrymander unconstitutionally deprives voters of their representational rights.

As he traditionally takes the role of swing vote on the court, Kennedy often takes the spotlight in close cases. Clement fumbled for an answer, and Kennedy went on to say if the justices ruled in his favor, they'd have to write an opinion stating the lawsuit is a protected activity under Section 7 but it was trumped by the FAA.

The conservative flank of the Court's defense of the map can be summarized in four words: "John Roberts hates math".

Still, Kennedy says a favorable ruling could spur action, because, in IN, redistricting reform is a bipartisan cause.

"We'll have to decide in every case whether the Democrats win or the Republicans win", Roberts said, a scenario that he said would damage the court's credibility. If more voters elected representatives with those values, the Supreme Court would not be faced with such a hard decision.

"If we're going to get Justice Kennedy's attention, we have to make sure he really understands this is not just a Democratic problem". "It worked", she said, referring to Republicans' huge legislative majorities. A "festival of copycat gerrymandering the likes of which this country has never seen" awaits America, Mr Smith warned, unless the justices resolve to act now.

In Wisconsin, a lower court sifted through evidence showing that Republicans packed Democrats into some districts and spread them out across others to maximize gains for the GOP.

The case reached the high court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that immigrants fighting deportation are entitled to bond hearings if they have been held for more than six months.

A view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. In 2010, however, Republicans won control of both houses of the Legislature and the governorship and produced a redistricting plan.

And now, 30 years later, the electoral map drawing process in America is even more shameful as craven political operatives use computers to generate partisan political results.

  • Leroy Wright


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