Abril 20, 2018

Justices struggle with partisan redistricting again

29 Marcha 2018, 07:44 | Dolorita Barahona

Source Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Source Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Other defendants in the case are state government in general and the state Board of Elections, along with several of its board members.

Partisan breakdown: State Assembly — 63 Republicans, 35 Democrats, one vacancy.

Now, as it happens, while the Wisconsin case involves a redistricting that strongly favors the Republicans (although only at the state legislative district level), the Maryland redistricting under scrutiny Wednesday favors the Democrats.

He cited Justice Samuel Alito's dissent in a North Carolina redistricting case warning against transforming the federal courts "into weapons of political warfare" that "invite the losers in the redistricting process to seek to obtain in court what they could not achieve in the political arena".

O'Malley's frank admission is at the heart of what is becoming an unprecedented look at partisan gerrymandering by the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court should step in to save democracy from partisan hacks. They claim that Democrats intentionally discriminated against them in 2011 based on their support for GOP candidates when they redrew the state's congressional map and flipped their reliably Republican district to a Democratic one. The district had been held by a 20-year Republican incumbent. While the spreadsheet mafia of professors and Democratic operatives like Eric Holder have cooked up formulas purporting to show an "unfair" GOP advantage in the maps drawn after 2010, this year will show once again that people aren't formulas.

At oral argument, almost all the justices asked questions suggesting they didn't think they should even decide the case because there isn't enough time for new maps to be drawn in Maryland for the 2018 election. This time, the case comes from a state where Democrats hold the edge.

Partisan breakdown: U.S. House — 25 Republicans, 11 Democrats.

Harrisburg, the capital most people from the state try not to talk about, was traditionally split in half to dilute the Democratic vote. Those maps were permanently adopted by the Legislature and governor in 2013. But even if it did, they maintain, courts should stay out of these kinds of First Amendment retaliation claims because there are no manageable standards for them to use to determine when partisan gerrymandering goes too far.

On Oct. 3, the court, which has a 5-4 conservative majority, seemed similarly torn when it heard a challenge by Democratic voters to Republican-drawn legislative districts statewide in Wisconsin, and has not yet issued a ruling. He added that if the reconfigured district "would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican, yes, this was clearly my intent". Whether the court's injecting itself into the redistricting process - which is inherently political - is a good idea is another matter entirely.

But Persily's bill is just the start: Lawyers for voters behind the successful, gerrymandering suit want an additional $1.5 million from state taxpayers for their three years of effort in the case. State House — 75 Republicans, 45 Democrats. Some expressed an urgency to do something about partisan gerrymandering, even if they didn't find a flawless standard.

Sullivan was unconvinced, but - much more importantly - so was Roberts, who distinguished between allegations of racial and partisan gerrymandering: The court has recognized that some degree of partisanship is acceptable in redistricting, he reiterated, but it has never said the same for racial discrimination.

Gerrymandering is defined by Merriam-Webster as: "To divide (a territorial unit) into election districts to give one political party an electoral majority in a large number of districts while concentrating the voting strength of the opposition in as few districts as possible". The 2020 census is drawing near, and the district lines for every legislative seat in the country will soon be redrawn. The court may also agree to review a case from North Carolina where a three-judge court ruled unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering occurred.

The Supreme Court has had a couple of previous significant encounters with partisan gerrymandering. "If you're the intelligent man on the street and the court issues a decision" and the Democrats win, he speculated, "the intelligent man on the street is going to say, 'It must be because the Supreme Court preferred the Democrats over the Republicans.'". That case is still pending. The Wisconsin challengers relied primarily on the equal protection clause, while this case focuses on the First Amendment. States with citizen commissions report that partisanship has not affected these commissions.

The case: A federal lawsuit filed last April alleges that two state House districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the Republican-led Legislature in 2015 to increase the percentage of white voters and decrease the percentage of black voters.

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