The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday decided to review a case decided last November that said the 2011 Republican re-drawing of State Assembly boundaries was an unconstitutional gerrymander, because of excessive partisanship.
Republicans maintain their methods were within the bounds of the Constitution.
There have been cases heard in the past regarding the method in which political boundaries are drawn, but Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin says this time it’s different.
“In the past it’s been thrown out because it’s been in violation of voting rights or civil rights laws, but gerrymandering has always been considered somewhat of a partisan exercise,” he explains. “But in this case the U.S. Supreme Court may decide that this was too excessive.”
Wisconsin Democrats argue that the 2011 Republican maps were drawn with the express purpose of disenfranchising Democratic voters.
Republicans disagree, and Republican legislative leaders have already hired two high profile law firms to represent them before the Supreme Court.
“Excessive Partisanship” At Issue
In May, the Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts that the court said were drawn based too heavily on race.
Twelve Republican-dominated states have already lined up to support Wisconsin’s Republicans in defending the 2011 maps. But Heck says both parties gerrymander to gain advantage, and the Wisconsin decision will have national implications.
“Democrats did the same thing in states like Rhode Island and Maryland, so this is not a Republican-Democratic issue,” he points out. “Of course, our neighbors to the south, Illinois, the Democrats have been doing this for years to the Republicans, so this could actually change the standard nationwide.”
After the 2011 redistricting in Wisconsin, Republican candidates won 60 of the 99 seats in the State Assembly. However, Democratic candidates won a majority of the votes cast statewide for Assembly.
Heck says the U.S. Supreme Court could rule that this kind of partisan map drawing is constitutional.
“We tend to think that they’re probably not going to do that, that they’re probably going to opt for saying that excessive partisanship in drawing state legislative boundaries is unconstitutional, thereby upholding the Federal court decision last November,” he states.
The Supreme Court will take up the Wisconsin case this fall.