Both sides in a new Supreme Court test case on partisan gerrymandering – drawing new election districts to favor one party – on Tuesday answered the Justices’ questions about whether the case should stay alive, disagreeing sharply on that. But they also may have raised a broad new question about what voters challenging such partisan-driven maps must do to make a case. If the Justices feel they have to rule on that issue, it could make a major difference to the future of such disputes. Besides that added issue, the two sides’ new briefs may have stirred up a new controversy over who speaks for North Carolina in election cases. That is a complication that led the Justices to refuse last month to decide a major voting rights case from the same state.
All of this comes about because the court has recently begun to ponder what to do with the case titled Harris v. Cooper. That involves a new attempt by election law specialists to try to persuade the Justices to settle a long-standing question of whether the federal courts have any authority to rule on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymanders – a common thing not only in modern politics, but throughout American political history.
The court has never declared flatly that no such constitutional case could ever go forward, but it has said it has not been able, so far, to find a workable formula on how to judge when there has been too much emphasis on party advantage in the redistricting process that takes place after every ten-year Census.
The new Harris case was taken to the Supreme Court last August by two North Carolina Democratic voters, claiming that a Republican-engineered gerrymander led to the creation of maps to assure that the GOP would win 10 of the state’s 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. A three-judge federal trial court had ruled against the claim, citing the Supreme Court’s past failure to recognize such challenges.
Full Article: Answers, and new questions, on partisan gerrymandering.