World

The Supreme Court has a chance to restore democracy to redistricting

The Supreme Court has a chance to restore democracy to redistricting

The United States Supreme Court will decide if states may draw voting districts to gain a partisan advantage.

The Supreme Court announced Monday morning it will take up the most important gerrymandering case in more than a decade. In fact, part of Texas' argument claims redistricting was indeed based on partisanship - something courts have allowed in the past. In May, the Supreme Court ruled that Republicans in North Carolina had carried out unconstitutional racial gerrymandering when they redrew two congressional districts in 2011.

Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee said he's glad the high court will hear Wisconsin's case, even though it is reviewing a lower court decision that Democratic voters won.

Last year, a citizen-led group in IL collected over half a million signatures to get a question on the general election ballot to change the state constitution, allowing for an independent commission to oversee the map-making process. In 2012, for example, Democrats could have held a 17-seat majority in the House over Republicans were it not for partisan gerrymandering, according to the Bennan Center's analysis.

Yet Democrats are more supportive of having courts rein in extreme districting plans, mainly because Republicans control more legislatures and drew districts after the 2010 census that enhanced their advantage in those states and in the House of Representatives. This is what the challengers allege the Republicans in Wisconsin of doing.

The answer should be easy: the Constitution exists to prevent the very kind of political entrenchment that partisan gerrymandering represents.




Potter said the crux of the case in Wisconsin, as it is in IL and other states, is politicians pick their voters, not the other way around. They said the federal court overstepped its bounds and judges should stay out of an inherently political exercise.

The Kansas Supreme Court today issued an order setting the deadlines for arguments on whether the legislative school finance law is constitutional. Wisconsin Republicans played the electoral map to get similar results - "majorities" with less than 50% of the votes cast. Others say courts should step in.

The issue has splintered the Supreme Court in the past, most recently in a 2004 ruling that left Justice Anthony Kennedy as the court's pivot point. In that case and again in 2006, Kennedy didn't find one. "However the Court rules will affect elections for years to come". The Whitford team has proposed using a data-driven method called an "efficiency gap" to calculate whether districts are being drawn in a way that unfairly favors one party. Both political parties do it when they can. Iowa is one of the minority of states that turn most of the duties of drawing the election maps for Congress and the Legislature over to a nonpartisan commission. Cities do it for city council districts.

In a subsequent ruling, the lower court ordered that the Legislature must have a new redistricting plan in place by November 1, 2017, for the 2018 general election.

"This has become such a big problem in the USA, we have been so bitterly partisan divided over the last decade or so and the redistribution process has been one of the things that people point to when we talk about why we are so bitterly divided". Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton - all played a role in the state's last round of redistricting, but none had weighed in on the U.S Supreme Court's announcement as of midday Monday. It must scrutinize carefully any election law passed primarily to benefit the party in power. The result has been sprawling, odd-shaped districts that might include communities with little in common other than the residents' political affiliation.


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