On Tuesday, October 3, the US Supreme Court will hear oral argument on whether Wisconsin’s state legislative redistricting plan violates the Constitution due to partisan gerrymandering. Courts have rejected redistricting plans that predominantly use race or plans that violate the “one person, one vote” principle. However, the Supreme Court has not gone so far to outlaw plans based on political partisanship as violative of the Constitution. If the Court upholds the Wisconsin three-judge panel ruling, numerous challenges redistricting across the country could ensue.
In 2004, the Supreme Court last addressed the issue of partisan gerrymandering. Challenges were made to the Pennsylvania Congressional districts that they violated the Constitution due to their partisan based intentions. However, the Justices struggled with the notion of whether these plans were a “political question” and not subject to judicial review and whether there was an appropriate tool to analyze the degree of “partisan gerrymandering.” The Court eventually decided against rejecting the plan due to partisan gerrymandering. Since then, redistricting plans for local governments to Congressional districts, have continued to use partisan politics as an integral factor in crafting their plans.
Fast forward to 2017. The Supreme Court now will question whether the plaintiffs have standing, whether this is a “political question”, and whether the analysis used by the Plaintiffs provides a “discernable and manageable standard for adjudicating political gerrymandering claims.” If the Supreme Court affirms the lower court’s ruling, look out—plaintiffs will come out of the woodworks to challenge plans crafted on partisanship.
I am attending the oral argument and cannot wait to hear the debate concerning these and many other questions raised by the Court.
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