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Supreme Court delays judgments on two partisan gerrymandering cases

Supreme Court delays judgments on two partisan gerrymandering cases

Voting rights attorneys and advocates expressed an urgency to get more challenges to the court to rule before the next round of electoral map-drawing.

The Democrats targeted longtime Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who had been reelected in 2010 by a 28-percentage-point margin, but lost to a Democrat in the redrawn district in 2012 by 21 points.

Instead of deciding the constitutional question, however, the court unanimously said that the plaintiffs in the lead case from Wisconsin had not shown that they had suffered the kind of injury that would allow them standing to seek intervention from the courts. Now, instances of racially motivated voter suppression must be challenged one by one - and, as we saw in the case of Ohio's voter purges last week, these individual cases are often punted back to state election boards, overwhelmingly controlled by the GOP. Should the Supreme Court eventually restrict partisan gerrymandering, it still can't undo the policies those lawmakers enacted in the meantime. "The Court's constitutionally prescribed role is to vindicate the individual rights of the people before it".

On the other side, Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch wrote that they would have ended the lawsuit and not given the Wisconsin voters another chance to make their case.

The justices dismissed separate lawsuits from Democratic Wisconsin voters and Republican Maryland voters, who challenged the congressional maps drawn by their legislatures.

The judges said Republicans crammed Democrats into some districts and spread them out thinly across others as a way to create more districts conducive to a GOP candidate. In 2014, they increased their advantage to 52 percent of the vote.

"While Democrats would like to replicate the success of our REDMAP program from 2010, the success of that program is based on having candidates and policies that voters want, which is how Republicans flipped almost 1,000 seats during the Obama Administration on lines largely drawn by Democrats", said Matt Walter, President of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Monday's Supreme Court decision on how much politics can be involved in the decennial process of redrawing district lines across the country might not, at first glance, seem like much.

Maryland Democrats are defending the redrawing of the 6th District, which includes the westernmost part of the state.

The case: A federal lawsuit filed February 9 by the publisher of the Little Rock Sun, a black community newspaper, alleges that the boundaries of the First Congressional District in eastern Arkansas were drawn to dilute the voting strength of black residents. It is still possible, based on this ruling, that individuals can sue to have their own districts invalidated; and organizations such as state parties can sue to invalidate statewide maps. The plaintiffs didn't provide ample evidence that the statewide map, rather than the specifics of their districts, was at fault. "Remedying the individual voter's harm, therefore, does not necessarily require restructuring all of the State's legislative districts". It was nonetheless a blow to opponents of partisan gerrymandering.

Women dominate in Va. Democratic House primaries
Elaine Luria's victory on Tuesday likely pits her against Republican Congressman Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, in November. Supreme Court is also weighing two cases challenging partisan manipulation of district boundaries in Wisconsin and Maryland.

The next session of the U.S. Supreme Court begins in October. The plaintiffs were too late in filing and failed to make a convincing case for their likely success in a full hearing; so, the case returns to the lower court.

At the Supreme Court, the fate of partisan gerrymandering likely depends on Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"In the District Court's view, "charging ahead" and adjudicating the plaintiffs' claims in that fluctuating legal environment, when firmer guidance from this Court might have been forthcoming, would have been a mistake", the ruling said.

Justice Elena Kagan filed a concurring opinion, however, that liberals may look to figure out a roadmap for how to bring a future case, as those opposed to partisan gerrymandering are sure to regroup.

The Wisconsin case, Gill v. Whitford, was also an extreme one.

We took up the gerrymandering question in a March 2017 fact check.

"There is little to no moral hazard when it comes to gerrymandering", McDonald said.

As 2020 looms on the horizon, fighting partisan gerrymandering outside the courts may prove ever more pertinent. State Senate: 26 Republicans, seven Democrats, one independent, one vacancy. To do so from now on, voters in each district of a state will need to show that their own voting clout has been diluted. Greenbaum, though, is hopeful.

Issues may change, but the common interest in getting along does not.

Keep it civilized, keep it relevant, keep it clear, keep it short.

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