Gerrymandering: Drawing districts for political advantage

The justices in a brief written order said they would review a redistricting case from Wisconsin, where a three-judge lower court previous year invalidated a redistricting plan enacted by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature in 2011.

A three-judge court struck down the districts as an illegal partisan gerrymander and ordered new ones to be put in place for the 2018 elections.

The justices will hear the case in the fall.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether electoral maps drawn deliberately to favor a particular political party are acceptable under the Constitution in a case that could have huge consequences for American elections. The stay was opposed by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen, the court's four liberal-leaning justices.

That divide could be significant.

One of the factors that the court considers in putting a lower court ruling on hold is whether there is a fairly good chance that the lower court will be overturned, when a decision is made by the Justices.

A dozen Democratic voters filed suit in 2015 against state election officials over the redistricting, saying the Republican-backed plan divided Democratic voters in some areas and packed them in others. He said his state's apportion scheme denies residents the ability to have real choice at the ballot box.

"Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has taken on the landmark partisan gerrymandering case in Wisconsin, the highest court in America could establish clear constitutional limits on partisan map drawing that could have applicability to IL and other states", said Brad McMillan, the group's vice chair. They said the federal court overstepped its bounds and judges should stay out of an inherently political exercise.

Should Republicans prevail in this case, we may see more states establish independent commissions to draw their electoral maps - since the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 those are constitutional.

In the 2004 case of of Vieth vs. Jubelirer, the court split five different ways and could not agree on a test to determine when gerrymandering crosses a line of excessive partisanship.

Many critics of Illinois politics believe the extreme political gerrymandering that Wisconsin Republicans are accused of employing to solidify power is analogous to the vaunted remapping efforts that have allowed Illinois Democrats and House Speaker Mike Madigan to maintain control. Voters have a right to expect fair and competitive elections. They are so lopsided that many Democrats have given up even trying to compete in legislative races, he said. Former President Barack Obama has said one of his projects now will be to combat partisan gerrymanders after the 2020 Census. The court has ruled similarly on Virginia and Alabama racial redistricting plans. He says the redistricting process was "entirely lawful and constitutional". After the census, they redrew the state's voting districts, and in 2012, despite winning less than 50 percent of the vote, Republicans captured 60 of the legislature's 99 seats. They now have their largest majorities in the state House and Senate in decades. "In this case, a lower court held that Wisconsin had indeed crossed that line", he told CNN.

It was statistical measurement of how many votes in each party were wasted, either because they were so diluted in a district they could never achieve a majority or because they were so concentrated in a district that they were in excess of what was needed to get a majority.

Their lawsuit claimed that Republicans spread Democrats thin among some districts so that they could not achieve a majority.

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report from Madison, Wisconsin.

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  • Kyle Peterson