Supreme Court divided in major gerrymandering case

Wednesday, 04 Oct, 2017

The good news for Smith, and for other opponents of partisan gerrymanders, is that there appear to be five votes to strike down Wisconsin's maps.

The first, Sessions v. Dimaya, heard yesterday, raises the question of whether authorities can use the definition "crime of violence" to expel a burglar whose crime involved no violence. John McCain, lawyer Mark W. Moser asked the court to step in an adopt a standard that would block extreme partisan gerrymandering and stop special interest groups from infecting the map drawing process.

Kennedy, First Amendment Champion: Liberals hoped that Anthony Kennedy would extend his embrace of the First Amendment to striking down gerrymandering as a de facto punishment of expression.

Kennedy questioned only the lawyers for the state of Wisconsin, rather than the plaintiffs.

The long-running class action litigation brought by the American Civil Liberties Union includes some immigrants who were held at the border when seeking illegal entry into the United States and others, including legal permanent residents, who have been convicted of crimes. "They like gerrymandering."The problem in this area is that if you don't do it, it is locked up". He didn't find one in that case, ruling against Democrats challenging a Republican gerrymander in the state.

Paul Smith, an attorney for the Wisconsin Democratic voters, adamantly disagreed.

Only four of Ohio's 16 congressional districts are represented by Democrats, and Democratic voters tend to be packed tightly in those oddly shaped districts - a result of Republicans in state offices claiming the spoils of their victories by getting the power to draw the district maps, although Democrats in the Statehouse signed off on the final maps.

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                                                            |By Andrew Chung
Image Zoom |By Andrew Chung

The question before the court in Gill v. Whitford is whether Wisconsin Republican lawmakers went too far in 2011 when drawing the latest set of boundaries for state legislative districts. While most of the states accused of partisan gerrymandering are Republican-controlled, states under Democratic control - Maryland, for example - are also judged to have engaged in the practice. After the new maps were passed, Republicans won 60 of the 99 seats in the state Assembly in the 2012 election, despite the fact that they carried only 47 percent of the vote.

Liberal justices voiced sympathy for the Democratic voters who challenged the Republican-drawn legislative map in Wisconsin as a violation of their constitutional rights. So imagine there was a country transitioning from dictatorship to a multi-party democracy with a parliament, and they asked you how they should go about designing districts. The girl's parents filed suit against the Garden City mayor and aldermen seeking damages for what they argued was negligence on the part of the city by allowing the bleachers to fall into a risky condition. This will be his first full term as a Justice, having sat in on only a handful of cases before the summer. Her research has been cited in briefs filed with the court.

Over the past decade the Supreme Court has backed arbitration agreements between companies and consumers or other businesses.

Spakovsky says the Supreme Court should strike down the suit against Wisconsin, otherwise he says it will open the flood gates for all states to sue over political gerrymandering. His point was that the court could never agree on a workable standard to outlaw gerrymandering. And the court has made clear that gerrymandering to dilute voting power based on racial lines is unconstitutional.

In more recent years, researchers have developed a series of sophisticated mathematical methods to assess how fairly voters are distributed among legislative districts.

Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler, who argued for the Trump administration, said the potential for violence is there if a robber encounters the owner of the house, suggesting that the justices should defer to the immigration authorities. The Wisconsin map "was the most partisan" map possible. It happens to be right now that Republicans control way more legislatures. Then, they could determine if the partisan advantage under the map was particularly extreme. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked. "What's really behind all of this?" There also are the Republican-sponsored voter suppression laws created to impede people's ability to exercise the right to vote, and to do so in ways that fall most heavily on those presumed to be more likely to support the opposition party. Partisan gerrymandering had "stack [ed] the legislature" against democracy, so that "the result is pre-ordained".