US top court to hear Wisconsin appeal in electoral map dispute

Typically, the party in control of a state legislature will try to draw congressional and state legislative districts in such a way as to maximize their own odds.

The case will be one of the biggest heard by the Supreme Court during its term that begins in October.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice, led by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, asked the court to stay that ruling, which would let Wisconsin's current legislative map remain in place while this Supreme Court appeal proceeds.

The Supreme Court is taking on a case about partisan advantage in redistricting that could affect elections across the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up an appeal over electoral districts in Wisconsin after a lower court ruled that the state's Republican-drawn map constitutes an "unconstitutional partisan gerrymander".

"Although a majority of the court has suggested that states can violate the Constitution if they draw legislative districts primarily to benefit one political party, the justices have never been able to identify the specific point at which states cross the constitutional line", Professor Steve Vladeck of the University of Texas told CNN. The court also announced it will hear arguments in the case brought by Democrats challenging the constitutionality of the existing maps.

A decision to uphold the ruling, on the other hand, would send courts across the USA head-first into a legal thicket, where they would be asked to glean legislative intent in district-drawing and pore over electoral maps and data to discern evidence of imbalance.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never struck down a state redistricting plan on the basis of a partisan gerrymander. "As I have said before, our redistricting process was entirely lawful and constitutional, and the district court should be reversed".

But the court has not ever ruled on electoral maps that have been re-drawn simply to give a political advantage to one party over another.

In its decision, the majority in the court panel decision wrote that the Assembly district map, which was drawn in the office of a Madison law firm that often represents Republican interests, "was meant to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters.by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats". Republicans can argue that rigging the maps is legal, but anyone who believes in a truly representative democracy knows it is not right.

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Democratic voters sued and claimed that the legislature's action violated their First Amendment associational rights and 14th Amendment equal protection rights.

Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. A lower court ruling upheld the case, agreeing lawmakers' gerrymandering was unconstitutional.

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.

Now, however, the Wisconsin case will confront the high court with raw politics, not race.

The case will be argued in the fall.

With the separate order that split the court closely on Monday, the state legislature will now be spared the duty of working out a new map of election district for use in upcoming elections. That work is proceeding.

The justices could say as early as Monday whether they will intervene.

The Supreme Court could soon decide whether the drawing of electoral districts can be too political.

The 2-1 decision that struck down Wisconsin's legislative map found Republicans were so partisan and so precise in their drawing of Wisconsin's legislative map in 2011 that they had silenced the voices of Democratic voters in the process.

The higher the efficiency gap, plaintiffs say, the more dramatic the partisan gerrymander, and Wisconsin's legislative map had one of the highest efficiency gaps of any redistricting plan in the nation going back four decades.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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