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US Supreme Court to hear Wisconsin gerrymandering case

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up an appeal over electoral districts in Wisconsin after a lower court ruled that the state’s Republican-drawn map constitutes an “unconstitutional partisan gerrymander”.The high court has been willing to invalidate state electoral maps on the grounds of racial discrimination, as it did on May 22 when it found that Republican legislators in North Carolina had drawn two electoral districts to diminish the statewide political clout of black voters.The case, which will be briefed and argued during the Supreme Court’s next term that starts in October, could determine how far state legislatures can go in structuring maps for partisan gain.Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel (SHIH’-mehl) says he is “thrilled” the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit brought by Democrats challenging redistricting maps drawn by Republicans.Earlier this year a panel of three federal judges struck down Wisconsin state House district maps, drawn in 2011 by the state’s Republican-majority legislature. A federal appeals court ruled the state drew district lines benefitting Republicans that were so partisan that they violated the U.S. Constitution. Just 90 minutes after justices announced Monday that they would hear the case, the five more conservative justices voted to halt a lower court’s order to redraw the state’s legislative districts by November, in time for next year’s elections.Last year, a citizen-led group in IL collected over half a million signatures to get a question on the general election ballot to change the state constitution, allowing for an independent commission to oversee the map-making process. In 2014, 52 percent of the vote yielded 63 seats.”I have long advocated for an independent commission to draw legislative districts, which is the only way to take partisanship out of the process”, Kind also said. In Wisconsin, the Republicans were in charge so they tried to pack as many Democrats as they could into the fewest number of districts.Both parties have tried to get the largest partisan edge when they control redistricting. The 1965 Voting Rights Act outlawed this practice by requiring states to create “majority-minority” districts, which are districts which feature a majority of voters from a single minority group. The resulting map maximized Republicans’ political power by carving up districts so Democrats were packed into some lopsided districts, giving the GOP a better chance at winning other competitive seats.In most states, the redistricting process is controlled by the state legislature and the governor, which is why state elections at the beginning of each decade are so important.The ruling on this case could be a landmark in the argument against political gerrymandering nationwide.This case could have “enormous ramifications”, Steve Vladeck, a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law, told CNN This would be the first time the court has “articulated a constitutional rule in this context”, he said. We are hopeful that the decision to hear this case will be the first step in addressing the partisan gerrymandering that is now shaping the House of Representatives as well as state legislatures across the country.