"Wisconsin's gerrymander was one of the most aggressive of the decade, locking in a large and implausibly stable majority for Republicans in what is otherwise a battleground state", said Brennan Center redistricting expert Thomas Wolf.
Registered Democratic voters in Wisconsin mounted a lawsuit alleging that GOP lawmakers had redrawn their districts to disproportionately favor Republican candidates.
The judges said the redrawing violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law and free speech by undercutting the ability of Democratic voters to turn their votes into seats in the Wisconsin state legislature.
The Supreme Court is putting the redrawing of Wisconsin legislative districts on hold while the justices consider the issue of partisan gerrymandering. This isn't the first time that the Supreme Court is hearing a case on political gerrymandering, but all prior attempts failed to yield a precedent. The four liberals would have let it proceed. "The court has never had a clear approach to partisan gerrymandering once it made a decision to start hearing these cases at all".
An unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, according to the plaintiffs, is one that maximizes the wasted votes for the minority party while minimizing them for the majority party that drew the map (it includes both lost votes cast for the candidates who lose and surplus votes cast for winning candidates). So this stay order raises a big question mark for those who think Court will use the case to rein in partisan gerrymandering.
A decision to uphold the ruling, on the other hand, would send courts across the USA head-first into a legal thicket, where they would be asked to glean legislative intent in district-drawing and pore over electoral maps and data to discern evidence of imbalance.
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Barth himself was able to post on Facebook and confirm his positive prognosis. "Run!'" That's when Barth started running. But even before that, in 2013, Barth interned in the office of the then Houston Mayor Pro-tem Ed Gonzalez.
This case represents the first time in 31 years that a lower court struck down a district plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
Wisconsin Republicans drew the maps in 2011 after they took full control of state government in the 2010 elections.
"No matter which side of the aisle you're on, we should all be able to agree on one thing: as voters in a democracy we should have the right to freely choose our representatives rather than endure a system where politicians manipulate our district lines, dilute our votes, and choose their own constituents", Johnson said.
In the past, the Supreme Court has struck down racial gerrymandering as unconstitutional, but it has never agreed to strike down a state's electoral map on the grounds it was overly partisan.
The case, Gill v. Whitford, arises from Wisconsin. In 2012, Republicans won 53% of the vote but 72% of the House seats in states where they drew the lines. That weakened African-American voting strength elsewhere in the state, the court said. A lower court struck down the districts as unconstitutional a year ago. And the reverse applies in Democrat states, although they are fewer in number.
The group's statement also quotes University of Chicago Law professor Nick Stephanopoulos as saying the last seven years have seen "four of the five most gerrymandered state legislative maps on partisan grounds in the last 45 years - as well as eight of the 10 statewide maps for the U.S. House of Representatives".
"So they compare that district-by-district to the statewide total, and that gives them this efficiency gap measure".