Tag Archives: gerrymandering

SCOTUS to hear second case of partisan gerrymandering on Wednesday

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in a partisan gerrymandering case from Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford, last October. The case provided an initial test for the efficiency gap, a proposed standard for determining discriminatory effect that counts the number of votes each party wastes in an election to determine whether either party enjoyed a systematic advantage in turning votes into seats. A decision is still pending.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in a second case of partisan gerrymandering from Maryland, Benisek v. Lamone. This case provides an initial test of a First Amendment theory under political association.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog has an Argument preview:

In October, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case alleging that Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature had drawn the state’s redistricting plan to put Democrats at a disadvantage – a claim known as “partisan gerrymandering.” The plaintiffs challenging that plan argued that it violated their constitutional right to be treated equally under the law, but Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested that the issue might be better framed as a violation of the freedom of speech and association guaranteed by the First Amendment. [On Wednesday], the justices will hear oral argument in another redistricting case – this time, a challenge by Republican voters to a single federal congressional district drawn by Democratic officials in Maryland – presenting precisely that question. The Supreme Court’s rulings in the Wisconsin and Maryland cases will almost certainly shape the face of redistricting for years, if not decades, to come.

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SCOTUS rejects GOP appeal of PA congressional map, more redistricting cases to follow

The legal strategy of challenging GOP gerrymandering under state constitutional provisions rather than federal law has proven successful in Pennsylvania. Abstention doctrine applies, i.e., the federal courts lack jurisdiction to hear appeals from state Supreme Court decisions interpreting state constitution provisions.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal from GOP legislative leaders in the state of Pennsylvania challenging the Supreme Court of the state of Pennsylvania imposing new congressional districts after having struck down GOP gerrymandered districts as unconstitutional under the state constitution. Supreme Court refuses to stop new congressional maps in Pennsylvania:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from Republican legislative leaders in Pennsylvania to block a redrawn congressional map that creates more parity between the political parties in the state.

The practical impact is the 2018 elections are likely to be held under a map much more favorable to Democrats, who scored an apparent victory last week in a special election in a strongly Republican congressional district. The 2011 map that has been used this decade has resulted in Republicans consistently winning 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats.

Monday’s action was the second time that the court declined to get involved in the partisan battle that has roiled Pennsylvania politics. The commonwealth’s highest court earlier this year ruled that a map drawn by Republican leaders in 2011 “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the free-and-equal-elections clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court deliberated nearly two weeks before turning down the request to stop the map from being used in this fall’s elections. Generally the justices stay out of the way when a state’s highest court is interpreting its own state constitution.

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AZ Senate approves evil GOP plan to undermine the AIRC

Last month I warned you the Evil GOP bastards are trying to negate the AIRC so the legislature does redistricting maps again.

Yesterday the evil GOP bastards in the Senate approved their amended but still flawed plan on a party-line vote. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports Senate passes redistricting overhaul on party-line vote:

On a 17-13 party line vote, the Senate advanced an amended version of Senate President Steve Yarbrough’s proposal to alter the structure of the Independent Redistricting Commission, an effort Democrats charged was politically motivated.

Voters would have to approve the plan, though.

As amended, SCR 1034 (.pdf) increases the size of the commission from a five- to nine-member body, with an equal split among Republican, Democrat and independent commissioners. Yarbrough, R-Chandler, argued that the effort will better represent the roughly one-third of Arizona voters who aren’t registered with a political party and will dilute efforts by either party to “hijack” the redistricting process in their favor.

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Pennsylvania will have to redistrict its congressional districts this year

The Washington Post’s Supreme Court reporter Robert Barnes reported Sunday on the status of gerrymandering cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Opponents of gerrymandering keep winning, but it might not affect 2018:

Opponents of gerrymandering have won a historic string of victories in the courts recently, yet millions of voters will cast their ballots this fall in districts that judges have declared to be unconstitutional.

Federal courts in Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin found that either politics or intentional discrimination played an unacceptable role in drawing electoral lines and ordered new districts in place for the 2018 elections.

But the Supreme Court stopped them all. The justices are traditionally reluctant to order changes in an election year, for one thing. And they have never thrown out a state’s redistricting plan because they found it so infected with partisan bias that it violates voters’ constitutional rights.

Unless and until it does — the subject is under review at the high court — the justices have routinely told states found to be offenders that they do not have to immediately redraw the maps, which almost surely means they won’t be in place for the 2018 elections.

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The most consequential of the stay requests is at the Supreme Court right now, and the decision could play a role in determining which party controls the House after the November midterm elections.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled that the congressional map drawn by the Republican legislature in 2011 “clearly, plainly and palpably violates” the commonwealth’s constitution. It demanded a quick redrawing of the lines so that 2018 elections could be held in fairer districts.

But Republican legislative leaders in Pennsylvania have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put the decision on hold.

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP-gerrymandered congressional districts as unconstitutional, orders redistricting

One of the most GOP-gerrymandered states in the country is Pennsylvania. Today the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the GOP-gerrymandered congressional districts as violative of the Pennsylvania state constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redistricted.

The Washington Post reports, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court just gave Democrats a big win on redistricting:

In a decision that could tilt the congressional balance of power in a key swing state in favor of Democrats, Pennsylvania’s highest court decided Monday that the state’s GOP-drawn congressional districts violate its Constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redrawn in the next few weeks.

Less partisan congressional districts could give Democrats a chance this November to win back as many as half a dozen seats that had been lost to them over the past decade. It could also give the party a major boost in its quest to take back the House of Representatives, where Democrats need to net 24 seats to win control of the chamber.

“Yet another gerrymandered district map thrown out!!” tweeted Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) of the news.

“Today’s decision is a victory for democracy and another blow to the Republican Party’s nationwide effort to game the system,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, in a statement.

In a 4-to-3 decision, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered the Republican-controlled state legislature to redraw the lines by Feb. 9, an extraordinarily quick timeline that will reset the districts in time for the state’s May congressional primaries. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will have veto power over the maps.

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Partisan gerrymandering cases headed to the U.S. Supreme Court

There has been a lot happening in partisan gerrymandering lawsuits lately, and luckily Rick Hasen at Elction Law Blog has put together a summary of where these cases stand today that will save me a lot of time. The State of Play on Partisan Gerrymandering Cases at the Supreme Court:

Back in 2004 the Supreme Court in Vieth v. Jublelirer split 4-1-4 over what to do about claims that partisan gerrymandering violates the U.S. Constitution. Four Justices said it was non-justiciable, four Justices said it was justiciable and raised a variety of challenges, and Justice Kennedy, in the middle, agreed with the Court’s liberals that the cases were justiciable, but agreed with the Court’s conservatives that the proposed standards didn’t work.  He essentially told everyone to keep working on the issue and come back, maybe looking at the First Amendment, maybe history, and maybe computers.  The cases at or coming to the Court seek to satisfy Justice Kennedy in various ways.

Here’s the state of play; the Supreme Court heard argument in October in Gill v. Whitford involving a challenge to state legislative districts in Wisconsin. Gill raises a partisan gerrymandering challenge under the Equal Protection Clause, and the McGhee/Stephanopoulos “efficiency gap” figured in (but was not the entire basis) for the analysis. Last month, the Court somewhat surprisingly also agreed to hear full argument in Beniske v. Lamone, a case challenging a Maryland congressional district as a partisan gerrymander under the First Amendment. I explained in this LA Times piece why the Court might have agreed to full argument in Benisek v. Lamone. Argument in the Maryland case will be later in the Spring.

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