US top court to hear Wisconsin appeal in electoral map dispute

Tuesday, 20 Jun, 2017

He added, "Partisan gerrymandering of this kind is worse now than at any time in recent memory".

A panel of three federal judges in Madison ruled 2-1 that the way Republicans redrew the districts violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection under the law and free speech by undercutting the ability of Democratic voters to turn their votes into seats in Wisconsin's legislature.

"Austin and most of Travis County easily could be its own congressional district", Li said. "I am pleased that the Court granted our request on this important issue".

But the area in Texas that may be most impacted by a ruling setting limits on partisan gerrymandering specifically would be Travis County. Even former President Barack Obama has vowed to fight against the practice's misuses and abuses during his post-presidency, though the Supreme Court of the United States may beat him to the punch.

In May, the Supreme Court invalidated state electoral maps in North Carolina, after finding that Republicans legislators re-drew them to diminish the political clout of African-American voters.

Under the Wisconsin redistricting plan, Republicans were able to amplify their voting power, gaining more seats than their percentage of the statewide vote would suggest. Similarly, some point to partisan redistricting after the 2010 census as the main reason Republicans retained the House in 2012.

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

He continued: "If the justices agree, it would be the first time the court has articulated a constitutional rule in this context, which could - and likely would - have enormous ramifications nationwide".

The four more liberal justices, named to the court by Democrats, would have let the new line-drawing proceed even as the court considers the issue.

The nation's highest court announced its decision to take the case in a brief order Monday.

In that case, Kennedy voted to uphold disputed congressional districts in Pennsylvania, saying the challengers hadn't provided a workable standard for determining whether partisanship played too big a role.

Kennedy said he could envision a successful challenge "where a state enacts a law that has the objective and effect of subjecting a group of voters or their party to disfavored treatment". Republicans in OH and Pennsylvania have done the reverse, concentrating urban voters in a few heavily Democratic districts. And someone in a cracked district, who votes for a candidate that is unable to win, is a "lost" vote. Gerrymanders work by forcing one party to "waste" votes.

"The metric that they came up with they called the efficiency gap, and it measures what they call wasted votes".

The Wisconsin court was not so definitive.

Election results since then have shown the redistricting had its intended effect, with the GOP winning a larger majority in the state assembly, even as the statewide tally of votes was almost even between Republicans and Democrats, the lower court said.

Every 10 years following the census, states redraw the boundaries of legislative districts to account for population changes, so that the number of people living in each district is about the same. Any method of drawing districts will favor Republicans, they contend.

A lawmaker looks at legislative redistricting maps.

In many past years, the courts redrew the state Senate and Assembly lines because state government was split along party lines, but in 2011, Republicans had swept into power and did the job themselves. If the Supreme Court takes it up, then we will actually get a statement from the court that, "this is the standard we've been looking for".