Supreme Court Sends Redistricting Case Back To Lower Court

Supreme Court decides not to decide on constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering

Supreme Court puts off weighing in on partisan gerrymandering

"I am pleased that the highest court in the land has unanimously reversed the trial court's erroneous decision invalidating Wisconsin's Assembly map". "I have been a strong supporter of the "Iowa model" of nonpartisan redistricting reform my entire time in the Assembly, and I will continue to advocate for it next session".

And while Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion for the Court in Gill has a bit more meat on its bones, it still amounts to a meager meal.

The method at issue in the Wisconsin case was "packing and cracking", by which voters of one party are consolidated ("packed") into districts where they can prevail by a great majority but effectively waste votes, and are divided ("cracked") among multiple districts so they fail to gain a majority in any of those districts. But the court offered a consolation prize.

That meant, Roberts wrote, that the plaintiff could not pursue a claim that his voting power within his district had been diminished by the current voting map. Many expected a landmark ruling that could have reshaped the redistricting landscape in the upcoming 2018 election cycle.

"Ultimately, I don't see the Supreme Court having overturned this, even had they ruled on the constitutional merits of it", Brian Westrate, the Republican chair for the Third Congressional District, said to WEAU 13 News on Monday. He can be reached by org jforward wisbar email or by phone at (608) 250-6161. Both cases are punts, which delay a showdown over partisan gerrymandering for at least another year. In a pair of unanimous opinions yesterday in Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone, the justices returned the cases to the lower courts for further proceedings.

The Supreme Court has told the American people they will not be saved by judicial decree. In the Tar Heel case, Smith says they will be able to show that individual impact.

Wisconsin Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin argued the case on behalf of the defendants, members of Wisconsin's Election Commission.

The Court, asked to evaluate the constitutionality of a behind-closed-doors gerrymander that landed Montgomery Mall in the same Congressional district as Maryland's Appalachian panhandle, instead avoided the question by retreating to purely procedural grounds.

Americans often seem proud of their democracy, notes Pippa Norris at Harvard University, but experts rank USA elections among the worst in all Western democracies.

In most places, the state legislature and governor are responsible for redistricting U.S. House and state legislative seats.

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"The (U.S.) Supreme Court didn't rule against us", Raines said.

The Wisconsin case included four plaintiffs who argued that their votes had been diluted by "the manipulation of district boundaries" in the Republican-drawn state legislative district maps.

"There is nothing more fundamental to our democracy than voting". The plaintiffs in the Wisconsin case seemed to think so, calling the Supreme Court "the only institution in the United States" that could solve the problem. However, the Court still left a window ajar.

"Remedying the individual voter's harm, therefore, does not necessarily require restructuring of all of the State's legislative districts", the Chief Justice continued. Those new standards convinced the Pennsylvania state supreme court to overturn its congressional map as a partisan gerrymander, as well as a federal three-judge panel in North Carolina, which will likely head to the Supreme Court this fall.

The Supreme Court decision doesn't negate those efforts, but it certainly doesn't help what was already an uphill battle.

"The difficulty for standing purposes is that these calculations are an average measure". For instance, the lead plaintiff, a Democrat, lived in a district including Madison that would perform well for Democrats even under a less-gerrymandered map.

Paul Smith, a Washington lawyer who represented the Wisconsin challengers, said they would accept the court's invitation to return to lower court with plaintiffs spread across Wisconsin. "There is no way to make a plaintiff whole after an unconstitutional election happens".

"This Court has explicitly recognized the relevance of such statewide evidence in addressing racial gerrymandering claims of a district-specific nature", Kagan wrote in reference to the court's decision in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama (2015).

In a second concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, agreed that the challengers lacked standing to sue.

He added: "The bottom line is, there will be plaintiffs with clear standing". And the justices could well use that case as the vehicle to put down a marker.

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