The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a major challenge to partisan gerrymandering in a case that could have implications for Maryland, where the state’s contorted congressional maps are being contested in a separate but similar federal case. The challenge to the Wisconsin legislative map, to be heard by the high court in the fall, could yield one of the most important rulings on political power in decades. The separate Maryland case is pending before a three-judge federal court.
Gerrymandering, the practice of drawing boundaries for political advantage, often producing bizarre-shaped districts resembling spiders or salamanders, has long drawn criticism. Several studies have suggested Maryland — where Democrats have turned a 2-1 advantage in voter registration into a House delegation with seven Democrats and one Republican — has one of the most gerrymandered congressional maps in the nation.
Supreme Court justices have lamented partisan mapmaking, but the court has failed to agree on a legal standard to decide when an effort to draw political advantage into a district crosses the line. The Wisconsin and Maryland cases are proposing different standards for how to determine whether a map is unconstitutional.