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Supreme Court to consider limits on partisan drawing of election maps

20 June 2017
Supreme Court to consider limits on partisan drawing of election maps

As part of agreeing to hear the case, the five conservatives on the Supreme Court (John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy) stayed the ruling, effectively removing the near-term requirement that Wisconsin redraw its map.

"And so it's impossible to say whether or not something unfair happened or whether or not the plaintiffs in this case just want maps drawn to compensate for the natural disadvantage that Democratic voters have And if you do that, then aren't you making a partisan and political judgment that is just as much political as the one that the plaintiffs allege to have happened here", Esenberg asks.

Early on Monday, news broke that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case from Wisconsin that deals with political gerrymandering regarding how the state has drawn its electoral districts.

A few times in the past, the court has taken on test cases on partisan gerrymandering, but it has refused, each time, to decide them after concluding that it could not come up with a workable constitutional formula on when partisanship had gone too far in a given redistricting process.

Last November, a panel of federal judges ruled 2-1 that Wisconsin Republicans in 2011 designed the congressional map to "make it more hard for Democrats, compared to Republicans, to translate their votes into seats". The trial on both maps is set to begin in July.

But Paul Smith, lead attorney for the Democratic voters, said during a conference call with reporters Monday that even with the delay in creating new maps, it's possible that new maps would be in place before the 2018 fall elections. "Across the country, we're witnessing legislators of both parties seizing power from voters in order to advance their purely partisan purposes".

The cleanest answer for the nine justices would be to reverse the lower court decision striking down Wisconsin's legislative districts as too partisan.

The challengers in the Wisconsin case argued that the state's electoral map was carefully drawn so that the GOP was virtually guaranteed to control the Legislature for the entire decade. In 2012, Republicans received about 49 percent of the vote but won 60 of the 99 state Assembly seats.

How Texans are reacting: The state's top Republican leadership - Gov.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker remains confident that GOP-drawn legislative district maps will survive a Supreme Court review.

Rep. Peter Barca, Wisconsin state Assembly Democratic minority leader: "Voters should be able to choose their representatives, not the other way around, and I have faith that the Supreme Court will do the right thing to help end the awful polarization we see in both Wisconsin and across America". Denniston has written for us as a contributor since June 2011 and has covered the Supreme Court since 1958. If Kennedy does retire, the battle to end partisan gerrymanders is likely doomed - as are, among other things, the battle to save Roe v. Wade, to preserve many civil rights laws, and to see any new progress on LGBTQ rights from the federal judiciary.

The Campaign Legal Center brought a motion with the justices last month, asking them to affirmi a November decision by the Seventh Circuit.

"Whitford comes at a critical juncture".

Democrats challenged the map as a partisan gerrymander violating the Constitution. But the high court could ultimately establish a new limit on the role politics plays into redistricting.

Private counsel working with CLC in representing the appellees includes Douglas M. Poland of Rathje & Woodward, Peter G. Earle, Michele L. Odorizzi of Mayer Brown, Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos of the University of Chicago Law School and Jessica R. Amunson of Jenner & Block.