Supreme Court should draw the line on gerrymandering

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Supreme Court should draw the line on gerrymandering

Partisan gerrymandering is and always has been a blot on the USA system of politics and government.

The cases the court has agreed to hear include a broad range of topics that will affect many Americans for decades to come.

There was little doubt about where the rest of the court stood.

But it's what Kennedy didn't say that could determine whether the court, for the first time, strikes down a legislative map because of extreme partisan gerrymandering.

As the Supreme Court wrestles with the Wisconsin case, a separate challenge is underway in Pennsylvania state court over the commonwealth's current congressional map.

When in 1962 the court first intervened in states' redistricting practices, it propounded only the simple and neutral principle of "one person, one vote" - districts must be numerically equal.

He pressed the state's lawyers about whether it would be unconstitutional for the state to simply declare that it was going to favor one party over another.

In the past, Republicans have defended themselves against similar cases by arguing the redistricting was carried out with partisan motives in mind, rather than racially-charged motives. Prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., are pushing to undo the redistricting gains Republicans made after the 2010 census when the next census is taken three years from now.

The plaintiffs have successfully petitioned lower courts to recognize the unconstitutional nature of the Republican-drawn maps and the United States Supreme Court is hearing the case on appeal with the opportunity to establish national precedent on the matter.

Attorneys from the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center attorneys are serving as co-counsel representing 12 Wisconsin voters. We will have to decide whether the Democrats or Republicans win ...

Whitford involves the Wisconsin state assembly maps - maps that were drawn to make it virtually impossible for Republicans to lose their majority.

Beverly Gill, the state election board's chair, maintained that "Act 43's districts are consistent with the prior court-drawn maps".

Racial gerrymandering has already been struck down by the court. Electoral maps sometimes concentrate voters who tend to favor the minority party into a small number of districts to reduce their statewide voting power, called packing, and distribute the rest of those voters in other districts in numbers too small to be a majority, called cracking.

During Tuesday's oral arguments, the more liberal high court justices seemed open to the case brought by Democratic voters.

The group is expected to file a lawsuit with a Federal District Court in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday that claims race was the "predominant factor" in reshaping the 105th and 111th districts in the Atlanta area.

"The legal team representing the Democratic voters is saying, "'Justice Kennedy, we have found the shiny holy grail you said was lacking, '" Landau said. In an especially candid moment, he told Smith that his primary concern is that, should Smith prevail, multiple partisan gerrymandering cases will be brought to the Court in the future, and the justices will have to explain why they side with a particular party in each case.

Wisconsin repealed this verdict, and in May the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the lower court ruling from going into effect.

Kennedy suggested, as he did in another redistricting case 13 years ago, that courts perhaps could be involved in placing limits on extremely partisan electoral maps. The plaintiffs in the case are average Wisconsin citizens who believe deeply in democracy and believe that the right to vote is a right worth fighting for.

"Gerrymanders now are not your father's gerrymander", Smith told the justices.

Wisconsin in response says redistricting has always been a political process, and lawmakers expressly have the power to draw district lines.

The term gerrymandering is derived from an 1812 incident in which Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry allowed a legislative map benefitting his own party to pass into law.

Other lawsuits challenging maps are ongoing in Maryland, where Democrats hold all but one of the state's eight seats in the House of Representatives, and North Carolina, another narrowly divided state in which Republicans nonetheless hold commanding majorities in the legislature and the state's congressional delegation.

In our state, residents have been demanding fairness in the redistricting process for years.

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