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Supreme Court To Hear Gerrymandering Case

| by Robert Fowler

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on June 19 that it will hear a case involving partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin. The court's ruling could have broad implications for redistricting in states across the nation come 2020.

The Court will hear the Wisconsin government's appeal of Gill v. Whitford, a legal challenge against the GOP-majority legislature's election map, The New York Times reports.

Registered Democratic voters in Wisconsin mounted a lawsuit alleging that GOP lawmakers had redrawn their districts to disproportionately favor Republican candidates. In 2016, a federal district court agreed with those Democratic voters, ruling that the state's election map had been drawn for partisan advantage.

The current congressional map was implemented in 2011. During the 2012 election, GOP candidates in Wisconsin only won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote but captured 60 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin State Assembly.

Plaintiffs in the case asserted that GOP lawmakers had drawn district lines to divide Democratic majorities into smaller districts in order to dilute their electoral impact, as well as to corral Democratic voters into a small number of districts that already favor their party.

"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.

Vladeck added that the Supreme Court's ruling on Gill v. Whitford "will affect elections for years to come."

While the court may rule that Gill v. Whitford may be out of its legal jurisdiction after hearing arguments, it could also create a new legal criteria for redistricting when new election maps are drawn in 2020.

Campaign Legal Center president Trevor Potter, whose group is representing the plaintiffs, asserted that both parties should want to end partisan gerrymandering.

"The threat of partisan gerrymandering isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue; it’s an issue for all American voters,” Potter told The Washington Post. “Across the country, we’re witnessing legislators of both parties seizing power from voters in order to advance their purely partisan purposes.”

Potter added that his group was “confident that when the justices see how pervasive and damaging this practice has become, the Supreme Court will adopt a clear legal standard that will ensure our democracy functions as it should.”

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