12:47, June 18 75 0 theguardian.com

2018-06-18 12:47:05
Supreme court sidesteps ruling in partisan gerrymandering cases



The supreme court dodged a decision on whether it is constitutional for political parties to redraw electoral maps to gain a partisan advantage.

In two cases, one in Maryland and one in Wisconsin, the court on Monday found procedural reasons not to issue a ruling on gerrymandering.

Instead of making a landmark ruling, the cases were both kicked back to lower courts for new hearings.

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In Maryland, the map had been redrawn by Democrats, while in Wisconsin, Republicans had done the same to gain an advantage.

Partisan gerrymandering has become a hot button issue in recent years as state legislatures have concerted efforts to draw electoral maps for political advantage with aid of technology that enables line drawing to be done in more precise ways.

Although the supreme court has long ruled that racial gerrymandering is unconstitutional, it has traditionally been loth to rule on whether districts can be drawn on a partisan basis.

The justices unanimously ruled against Wisconsin Democrats who challenged legislative districts that gave Republicans a huge edge in the state legislature. In a separate unsigned opinion, they also did not side with Maryland Republicans who objected to a single congressional district.

The Maryland case is only in its preliminary phase and has not yet had a trial. That will now happen.

In Wisconsin, the Democrats prevailed after a trial in which the court ruled that partisan redistricting could go too far and indeed, did in Wisconsin, where Republicans hold a huge edge in the legislature even though the state is otherwise closely divided between Democrats and Republicans.

The supreme court said that the plaintiffs in Wisconsin had failed to prove they have the right to sue on a statewide basis, rather than challenge individual districts. The Democrats will have a chance to prove their case district by district.

Waiting in the wings is a case from North Carolina that seemingly addresses some of the high court’s concerns. The lawsuit filed by North Carolina Democrats has plaintiffs in each of the state’s 13 congressional districts. Like Wisconsin, North Carolina is generally closely divided in politics, but Republicans hold a 10-3 edge in congressional seats.





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