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ERIN GRUNZE: Redistricting ruling puts onus on states

ERIN GRUNZE: Redistricting ruling puts onus on states

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 decision leaves states free to continue to draw election districts to gain partisan advantage.

Both said they would have their teams look at the proposals of Take Back Our Republic to find a solution to avoid the dilemma the Supreme Court just avoided of being impaled by either the right horn of partisan districts drawn by the Wisconsin legislature or the left horn of the liberal national groups who would like to carve up Milwaukee to create more Democratic districts.

But both cases will continue in lower courts as more challenges from states including OH and North Carolina make their way through the courts, all but ensuring the nation's highest court will get another crack to lay down a standard to determine when political gerrymandering runs afoul of the Constitution. But, in both cases, the Supreme Court refused to intervene. "The Court's constitutionally prescribed role is to vindicate the individual rights of the people appearing before it".

The court could announce as early as next week whether they will be moving ahead with the North Carolina case this fall.

In the Wisconsin case, Democrats challenged maps drawn by Republicans.

Through strategic "cracking" and "packing" of districts, the majority Republican legislature sought to dilute the Democratic vote to ensure lasting control - in effect, violating the first and 14th amendment rights of voters. Almost 50 percent of all state assembly seats went uncontested by a major party in 2016. In 2014, they increased their advantage to 52 percent of the vote.

"The representation of communities is made a mockery by maps that either splinter cities and counties or overwhelm them with voters "tacked" into the district from distant rural areas", writes Richard Gunther at The Ohio State University.

Levitt says the hesitation from the U.S. Supreme Court, makes the decision from the Pennsylvania court more impactful.

In the meantime, the onus is on the states to curb abuses through legislative action. A lawsuit filed by North Carolina Democrats has plaintiffs in each of the state's 13 congressional districts. In a cursory per curiam opinion, the justices upheld the district court's refusal to grant a preliminary injunction, stressing that the plaintiffs had delayed many years in seeking that relief. "That harm arises from the particular composition of the voter's own district, which causes his vote - having been packed or cracked - to carry less weight than it would carry in another, hypothetical district".

"Remedying the individual voter's harm, therefore, does not necessarily require restructuring of all the state's legislative districts", he said.

"The court had abundant evidence that extreme gerrymandering in Wisconsin and Maryland is toxic for democracy", Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said in a statement.

"While it's disappointing to see the court punt, the decisions aren't losses".

Worse, Republicans have attacked the rule of law itself when rulings go against their ability to game the system.

Commentators have treated the Court's decision in Whitford v. Gill, the Wisconsin gerrymandering case, as just a technical decision, a delay in getting a substantive decision out of the Court. For instance, the lead plaintiff, the chief justice wrote, lived in what is "under any plausible circumstances, a heavily Democratic district".

The full opinions for each case can be found in the links below.

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.

For the second time during this Supreme Court term, an awesome, nation-defining Supreme Court showdown ended with a flaccid, overcooked nothingburger.

Kagan also addressed a legal route that Kennedy has previously suggested based on the First Amendment right of association held by political parties and their members.

Ultimately, partisan gerrymandering does nothing to help democracy. "Computer programs using vast data banks describing sociological, ethnic, economic, religious and political characteristics of the electorate determine districts - often of incredibly weird contours - that favor the party that drew the maps".

In states like Arizona, an independent redistricting committee is responsible for reevaluating the state map every ten years.

Representative Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, said elections are decided by the voters who choose candidates who would best represent them. Greenbaum, though, is hopeful.


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