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SCOTUS kicks partisan gerrymandering ball down the road

SCOTUS kicks partisan gerrymandering ball down the road

Court rejects and remands challenge to pro-Republican Wisconsin legislative map, and finds no abuse of discretion in district court’s failure to enjoin pro-Democrat Maryland congressional district.

I’m so old, I remember when two partisan gerrymandering cases in the Supreme Court — one from Wisconsin and one from Maryland — were on just about everyone’s list of blockbuster cases this term, including Bloomberg, Politico, and CNN, among many others.

The Wisconsin case involved a very pro-Republican legislative district map that would help Republicans retain control of the state legislature, and the Maryland case involved a single very pro-Democrat congressional district.

These cases gave the Supreme Court the opportunity to resolve what has never been resolved — to what extent, if at all, partisan political motives could invalidate a legislative map.

But SCOTUS punted, as Adam Liptak explains:

The Supreme Court declined on Monday to address the central questions in two closely watched challenges to partisan gerrymandering, putting off for another time a ruling on the constitutionality of voting districts designed by legislatures to amplify one party’s political power.

In a challenge to a redistricting plan devised by the Republican Legislature in Wisconsin, the court unanimously said that the plaintiffs had not proved that they had suffered the sort of direct injury that would give them standing to sue. The justices sent the case back to a trial court to allow the plaintiffs to try again to prove that their voting power had been directly affected by the way state lawmakers drew voting districts for the State Assembly.

In the second case, the court unanimously ruled against the Republican challengers to a Democratic plan to redraw a Maryland congressional district. In a brief unsigned opinion, the court said the challengers had waited too long to seek an injunction blocking the district, which was drawn in 2011.

The Wisconsin decision is here, the Maryland decision is here.

Since Republicans control most state legislatures and governorships, Democrats are desperate to get a Supreme Court ruling barring partisan gerrymandering. But if Democrats manage to recover from their disastrous state-level position, expect them to gerrymander to their benefit.

Elections matter, particularly since SCOTUS is hesitant to set down clear guidelines as to whether partisan gerrymandering is permitted.

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Comments

So if I get this right:
Case #1 – Court rules in favor of the majority party in the state setting the voting boundaries as per their state constitution.
Case #2 – Court rules in favor of the majority party in the state setting the voting boundaries as per their state constitution.

I know two data points don’t make a line, but…

PA showed the way here.

Just elect a hyper-partisan State Supreme Court to invalidate a map lawfully drawn up by the legislature, 8 years prior, and approved by a previous state Supreme Court, then that Court can simply hire a Democrat operative to draw a completely new map that favors D’s far more than any map anyone had previously imagined.

Put that in place, despite the new map violating literally every principle the court had claimed the previous map violated and despite, obviously, the clear provision in the US Constitution that all such maps are to be drawn by the Legislature.

Good. Maybe now Texas can draw their own districts, instead of having some federal judge do it.

“That was my hope,” O’Malley told attorneys in a deposition. “It was also my intent to create … a district where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican.”

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-redistricting-case-20170601-story.html

“Elections matter, particularly since SCOTUS is hesitant to set down clear guidelines as to whether partisan gerrymandering is permitted.”

I have a different take. I think SCOTUS did kick it down the road – to Congress, specifically Article I, Section IV: “The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.”

The building blocks for all states are precincts, townships & counties. Jerrymandering contorts and twists precincts into prezels until the party in power achieves a favorable voter patchwork.

If it were up to me, I would abolish jerrymandering districts altogether. I would simply lay out a grid composed of x-number of acreage squares, then overlay the map upon each state, regardless of size or shape. Presto bingo, Bob’s your uncle and those are the precincts in each township and county.

But I’m jaded, so that won’t happen because politicians will always protect their power, prestige and profit at the expense of voters.

    The building blocks for all states are precincts, townships & counties.

    No, they’re not. Those are all creations of the states, which it can abolish or alter at will, not the other way around.

There is very little scope for federal courts, or law to be involved in this, if they stay within the constitutional limits of their power. It’s the responsibility of the states to define the districts, and since it’s all a political process, it’s to be expected that what ever party is in power will use it to their advantage.

Unless a state government goes to outrageous extremes in drawing districts that look like an octopus, have nothing in common between various areas of the district, and cannot be mistaken for anything other than an effort to include supporters of one party, and exclude those of another, they are within their rights. A party in power has the right to draw district boundaries to their advantage, but not by so blatantly devising their form that there can be no question of the intent. As it has been generally interpreted, it’s more about the appearance of using redistricting for political advantage, than doing so.

    Aarradin in reply to Bisley. | June 20, 2018 at 4:40 am

    “Unless a state government goes to outrageous extremes in drawing districts that look like an octopus, have nothing in common between various areas of the district, and cannot be mistaken for anything other than an effort to include supporters of one party, and exclude those of another, they are within their rights.”

    Replace “unless” with “even if”, and you’d be correct.

    They can draw them however they please, and for whatever reason. The only limit is that Congressional districts must roughly be of the same population.

    That’s it.

    The remedy, if people don’t like the amount of gerrymandering going on, would be to vote out the representatives responsible for doing it. Or, you could also pass a Constitutional Amendment putting limits on it – like, say, minimizing the number of counties that could be split across district boundaries.

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