Supreme Court to consider whether partisan election maps are unconstitutional


The Supreme Court accepted the case from Wisconsin, where a divided panel of three federal judges past year ruled that the state's Republican leadership in 2011 pushed through a plan so partisan it violated the Constitution's First Amendment and equal rights protections. Just 90 minutes after justices announced Monday that they would hear the case, the five more conservative justices voted to halt a lower court's order to redraw the state's legislative districts by November, in time for next year's elections. While Republicans got 48.6% of the votes in Wisconsin, they managed to get a 60 to 39 seat majority in the State Assembly with the help of gerrymandering.

Some suggest the most extreme examples of partisan gerrymandering can be found in states like MI, where Republicans have maintained majorities in the congressional delegation and the state legislature even though Democrats tend to win more votes.

The stay prevents implementation of a ruling by a three-judge panel, which would have required the Wisconsin Legislature to redraw district maps in time for the 2018 elections.

The justices should correct the lower court's "flawed analysis before it spreads to other jurisdictions and interferes with the states' fundamental political responsibilities", Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller wrote for 12 Republican-dominated states that are backing Wisconsin.

But the court has not ruled on "purely partisan gerrymanders" since 2004, as NPR's Nina Totenberg reported: "In 2004, a four-member Supreme Court plurality all but ruled out challenges to even extreme partisan gerrymanders, while four members of the court would have allowed some limited challenges". "As I have said before, our redistricting process was entirely lawful and constitutional, and the district court should be reversed".

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Their pursuit of raw political power and unfair partisan advantage undermines the integrity of our elections and shakes the foundations of our democracy.

"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. He says Democrats proved in court that their rights were violated and "now this story will be told on a national stage".

After a trial previous year, the district court panel agreed, invalidating the restricting plan statewide. "Wisconsin lawmakers have maintained that our state's redistricting process and legislative maps are legal and constitutional, and we look forward to the Court's final decision which we are confident will affirm our position". New lines for the Wisconsin State Assembly were redrawn after the change in power but those lines have been struck down by a federal court. The Supreme Court has been split in the past on whether or not these primarily political decisions are best left to elected officials.

Gerrymandering is a term nearly as old as American democracy.

The Supreme Court has an unprecedented opportunity to return control of Congress to the American people. However, the court has never turned down a map drawn to give an advantage to a political party.