USA

Top court to hear case that could reshape US political map

Top court to hear case that could reshape US political map

The case, Gill v. Whitford, comes to the court after a panel of three federal judges ruled 2-1 a year ago that state lawmakers unconstitutionally drew the boundaries of state Assembly districts to benefit Republicans in 2011. "The Supreme Court has the opportunity to ensure the maps in Wisconsin are drawn fairly, and further, has the opportunity to create ground rules that safeguard every citizen's right to freely choose their representatives".

Venturing into what one justice recently called the "always unsavory" process of drawing election districts for partisan advantage, the court will try to set a standard - something it has failed to do in the past.

The Supreme Court has never struck down districts because of unfair partisan advantage, although it has intervened frequently in disputes over race and redistricting over the past 50 years.

It's the high court's first case on what's known as partisan gerrymandering in more than a decade, and the outcome could affect elections across the country.

A dispute over Wisconsin's Republican-drawn boundaries for the state legislature offers Democrats some hope of cutting into GOP electoral majorities across the United States.

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In the election following adoption of the new maps, Republicans got just 48.6 percent of the statewide vote, but captured a 60-to-39 seat advantage in the State Assembly.

Gerrymandering is the practice of one party packing as many voters of the other party into the fewest districts possible.

The federal court that struck down the districts adopted an equation that offers a way to measure the partisan nature of the districts.

Four justices - only Justice Clarence Thomas remains of the group - said it was not the court's business to make such decisions.

The state asked the Supreme Court to block that requirement on the assumption that the justices would hear its appeal in the 2017 term, which begins in October.

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The case is expected to have an impact nationally, deciding the standard by which courts can determine whether a redistricting plan is drawn unconstitutionally on the basis of the party affiliation of voters. He will be a key vote in the Wisconsin case. He could be the swing vote in the Wisconsin case.

A Supreme Court ruling faulting the Wisconsin redistricting plan could have far-reaching consequences for the redrawing of electoral districts due after the 2020 US census. The high court fast-tracked the case by bypassing the Court of Appeals. It essentially measures and compares each party's wasted votes -those going to the victor in excess of what's needed for victory - in an election.

When the efficiency gap is over 7 percent, it makes it extremely likely the majority party will maintain its electoral majority. Kennedy, writing in a 2004 case, indicated he may be open to the idea that racial gerrymanders could violate the Constitution. Let's say you have a strongly Democratic district.

Burden noted that because the Wisconsin case only deals with state legislative districts, separate litigation would be needed to deal with the way congressional districts are drawn. "It's a symptom of politics going haywire and something that we increasingly see when one party has sole control of the redistricting process". He said he expects that after briefs are filed in the case over the summer, oral arguments would be heard in November or December, followed by a ruling in spring 2018. Republicans call their actions lawful.

"If the Supreme Court actually decides to rein in partisan gerrymandering, I think it would have the effect of helping Democrats in the short term, because there are more legislatures that are controlled by Republicans", Hasen said.

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