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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