Supreme Court to hear Wisconsin gerrymander case

Lawmakers at odds over redistricting

Wisconsin Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel welcomed the justices' decision to hear the state's appeal and called the state's redistricting process "entirely lawful and constitutional".

A federal court ruled in Wisconsin that Republican lawmakers had violated the US Constitution's equal protection under the law and free speech clauses.

"Austin and most of Travis County easily could be its own congressional district", Li said.

The nation's highest court on Monday said it will hear arguments in the case. He said he doesn't believe the court will rule until possibly the middle of 2018.

After the 2010 census produced new population estimates the GOP-controlled state assembly redrew the district lines.

The Supreme Court is wading into the thicket of partisan redistricting in a case from Wisconsin.

It acknowledged the efficiency gap, but only as one of several theories the court said corroborated its findings that the Republican leadership had a discriminatory intent, that its plan had a discriminatory effect and that the state had no legitimate reason for drawing the districts in the way it did.

They urged the court to overturn the lower-court ruling and throw out the claim on the grounds that redistricting is a political process, not a legal one.

The group's statement also quotes University of Chicago Law professor Nick Stephanopoulos as saying the last seven years have seen "four of the five most gerrymandered state legislative maps on partisan grounds in the last 45 years - as well as eight of the 10 statewide maps for the U.S. House of Representatives".

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The challenge to Wisconsin's legislative lines are different because the challenge revolves around whether district lines can be drawn for a partisan advantage.

It's the high court's first case on what's known as partisan gerrymandering in more than a decade, and the outcome could affect elections across the country.

The US supreme court on Monday agreed to decide whether electoral maps drawn deliberately to favor a particular political party are acceptable under the constitution, in a case that could have huge consequences for future US elections. "No matter which side of the aisle you're on, we should all be able to agree on one thing: as voters in a democracy we should have the right to freely choose our representatives rather than endure a system where politicians manipulate our district lines, dilute our votes, and choose their own constituents".

In striking down that plan, the lower court had concluded that it was developed in a way that the Republicans would continue to win the most seats in the assembly until there is a new census and the drawing of new maps.

Rep. Peter Barca, Wisconsin state Assembly Democratic minority leader: "Voters should be able to choose their representatives, not the other way around, and I have faith that the Supreme Court will do the right thing to help end the awful polarization we see in both Wisconsin and across America".

The measure, called the efficiency gap, shows how cracking (breaking up blocs of Democratic voters) and packing (concentrating Democrats within certain districts) results in wasted votes - excess votes for winners in safe districts and perpetually inadequate votes for the losers. "In 2014 and 2016, Republicans extended their advantage to 63 and 64 seats, respectively, even though the statewide vote remained almost tied".

The case will set a legal precedent on the long-time political practice. However, he sided with the Court's conservatives in staying the lower court ruling, which might indicate a lack of sympathy with the plaintiffs and a willingness to let the map slide.

Democrats do likewise where they control the line-drawing process, such as in Illinois, Maryland and MA.

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