Tag Archives: gerrymandering

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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Politicizing the Census Bureau for GOP authoritarianism

Steve Benen warns of an ominous development at the U.S. Census Bureau. Trump eyes radical choice for the Census Bureau:

The Census, conducted every 10 years by constitutional mandate, is one of those incredible important tasks that most people probably find rather dull. That’s a shame because getting this right has an enormous impact on everything from federal spending to representation in Congress.

With that in mind, it was disappointing when Census Bureau Director John Thompson, in the midst of a funding fight, decided to resign unexpectedly in May. Making matters worse, we’re just now getting a look at the replacement Donald Trump apparently has in mind. Politico reports:

The Trump administration is leaning toward naming Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience, to the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, according to two people who have been briefed on the bureau’s plans.

Brunell, a political science professor, has testified more than half a dozen times on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, and is the author of a 2008 book titled “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.”

Some Trump personal choices are alarming, some are disheartening, and some belong in the you-have-got-to-be-kidding me category.

As Slate explained earlier this year, “The decennial census is critical to ensuring that Americans are fairly represented in Washington, since it’s used as the basis for congressional redistricting. A mishandled census could undercount poor and minority populations, putting some states and many cities at a demographic disadvantage.”

It’s against this backdrop that Trump is eyeing someone who has not only played a direct role in helping Republican gerrymandering efforts, but who quite literally wrote a book criticizing competitive elections.

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Justice Kennedy is the key vote to ending partisan gerrymandering

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Gill v. Whitford on Tuesday, in which the justices will decide whether Wisconsin’s electoral maps are the product of an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

From the oral argument transcript, it appears that Justice Anthony Kennedy is seeking an answer to end partisan gerrymandering, and he will be the decisive vote.  If so, he will be the author of the opinion in this case, and he will influence other redistricting cases from North Carolina, Virginia and Texas on the court’s docket.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog reports, Argument analysis: Cautious optimism for challengers in Wisconsin redistricting case?

The district court may have regarded this case as a “straightforward” one, but few justices seemed to share that sentiment today. That’s not particularly surprising, because the issue of partisan gerrymandering has deeply divided the Supreme Court in the past. Thirteen years ago, the justices rejected a challenge to Pennsylvania’s redistricting plan, with four justices agreeing that courts should decline to review partisan-gerrymandering claims, because it is too hard to come up with a manageable test to determine when politics plays too influential a role in redistricting. Four other justices would have allowed courts to review partisan-gerrymandering claims. That left Justice Anthony Kennedy, who agreed that the Supreme Court should stay out of the Pennsylvania case but suggested that courts could play a role in reviewing partisan-gerrymandering cases in the future if a workable standard could be found.

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SCOTUS to hear partisan gerrymandering case today

This morning the U.S. Supreme court will hear oral argument in Gill v. Whitford, in which the justices will decide whether Wisconsin’s electoral maps are the product of an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog has a detailed preview of the legal posture of this case and the claims being assertedon appeal.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder writes at the Washington Post, Redistricting has broken our democracy. The Supreme Court should help fix it.

When the Supreme Court hears arguments today in Gill v. Whitford, contesting Wisconsin’s legislative map, it will have a chance to rein in an aggressive new breed of data-driven gerrymandering that divides communities and diminishes the voice of many Americans. The record is clear, and the Supreme Court must take this opportunity to protect the right to fair representation that is embedded in our Constitution and our values.

I’ve spent a lot of time with maps since finishing my term as attorney general and dedicating my time to a push for a fair redrawing of legislative districts. These maps — created as a result of some Republicans’ bad faith redistricting efforts after the 2010 Census — are impressive in their geographic creativity but destructive to the representative democracy that our founders envisioned. Republicans created a House seat in Ohio that is only contiguous at low-tide; a House seat in Virginia that can only be connected by a boat ride on the James River; and a House seat in Michigan that is shaped like a snake and designed to pack as many minority voters into one district as possible.

Many Republicans across the country have wielded the gerrymander to manipulate the people’s right to vote into unconscionable partisan advantage. In 2012, Democrats won 1.5 million more votes than Republicans in races for the  House of Representatives, yet Republicans gained a 234 to 201 seat advantage. In 2016, despite winning fewer than half of all votes for the House, Republicans still held an advantage of 241 to 194 House seats. A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that partisan gerrymandering has created a “durable majority” of 16-17 seats for Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. Just seven states, where the maps were drawn and approved solely by Republicans, account for almost all of this bias.

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