Top court to hear case that could reshape US political map

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Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote on the court, wrote a 12-page concurrence to a 2004 redistricting case that suggested he was open to striking down political gerrymanders if someone could come up with a way to measure how much partisanship is too much.

"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. But the Court has never identified an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

"More than 60 percent of the state legislative seats in the general election were uncontested, [with] no Republican running against those Democrats because they were such Democratic districts", Potter said.

"The maps were in place and Republicans gained seats in '12, '14, and '16".

The Supreme Court of the United States declared that it will hear arguments on Wisconsin's gerrymandered election maps.

Venturing into what one justice recently called the "always unsavory" process of drawing election districts for partisan advantage, the court will try to set a standard - something it has failed to do in the past.

The U.S. Supreme Court declared Monday it will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, opening the possibility that justices could fundamentally change the way American elections are conducted.

Last November, a federal district court ruled that Republicans' 2011 gerrymandering effort in Wisconsin crossed a line and was unconstitutional. "The Supreme Court has the opportunity to ensure the maps in Wisconsin are drawn fairly, and further, has the opportunity to create ground rules that safeguard every citizen's right to freely choose their representatives".

"And they would argue that the new legal standard is such that the IL map doesn't measure up constitutionally and they would have a pretty good argument that it should be fixed before the next round of redistricting comes along", Smith said.

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That happened because blocs of Democratic voters had been packed into districts instead of scattered into competitive districts, the court found.

The Wisconsin case of Gill vs. Whitford, to be heard in the fall, could yield one of the most important rulings on political power in decades.

The Supreme Court is unlikely to decide the Wisconsin case before early next year. "Across the country, we're witnessing legislators of both parties seizing power from voters in order to advance their purely partisan purposes".

That redistricting plan violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of Wisconsin voters, the panel ruled, ordering the state to redraw district lines by November.

"Justice Kennedy is the big question mark here", Douglas said.

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat and chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in the Texas House, tweeted that the caucus would keep an eye on the Wisconsin case closely as the Texas trial begins next month.

While courts have overturned legislative district maps based on racial discrimination, judges have shied away from striking down districts drawn to maximize a party's political power. They argued that Democratic voters were spread so thinly across the state that it was impossible for Democratic legislative candidates to be elected and achieve a majority. In 2014, the party garnered 52 percent of the vote and 63 Assembly seats.

Schimel appealed a November 2016 ruling by a federal three-judge panel in the US 7th Circuit District Court that found Wisconsin's current State Assembly map to be unconstitutional on a 2-1 decision.