A Kansas City attorney who helped draw the boundaries of Missouri’s current legislative districts is trying to knock a question off the November ballot designed to end partisan gerrymandering. In a lawsuit filed on behalf of Paul Ritter, a Miller County resident, attorney Eddie Greim said the proposed referendum violates a provision in the Missouri Constitution that prevents multiple subjects from being combined into one ballot proposal. “One purpose of the prohibition on multiple subjects in a single ballot proposal is to prevent `logrolling,’ a practice familiar to legislative bodies whereby unrelated subjects that individually might not muster enough support to pass are combined to generate the necessary support,” the lawsuit says.
Newly disclosed emails show Michigan Republicans angling to give their party a dominant position through gerrymandered maps and celebrating the plight of their Democratic rivals. Republicans in the state have denied that they sought partisan gain when they drew new legislative boundaries in 2011. But a federal lawsuit, which argues the maps are unconstitutional, has unearthed records showing Republicans intent on drawing boundaries that would help their party. The emails, disclosed in a filing on Monday, boast of concentrating “Dem garbage” into four of the five southeast Michigan districts that Democrats now control, and of packing African-Americans into a metropolitan Detroit House district. One email likened a fingerlike extension they created in one Democratic district map to an obscene gesture toward its congressman, Representative Sander M. Levin. “Perfect. It’s giving the finger to Sandy Levin,” the author of the message wrote. “I love it.”
Editorials: Kennedy’s Retirement Could Threaten Efforts to End Partisan Gerrymandering | Michael Wines/The New York Times
For 14 years, as partisan gerrymanders across the country grew more extreme, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy came to symbolize hopes that the Supreme Court would eventually rein them in. His retirement this week did not merely dampen those hopes. Experts said it also presented a potentially crippling threat to growing efforts by voting rights advocates and Democrats to halt gerrymanders by legal and political means. Justice Kennedy was widely seen as the swing vote on gerrymandering in a court divided between liberals, who see the practice as unconstitutional, and conservatives, who regard it as a political problem, not a legal one. Indeed, he single-handedly preserved it as a judicial question, in a 2004 case involving Pennsylvania’s Legislature, when he declined to join four other justices who declared that it is impossible to determine when a political map becomes unacceptably partisan. “That no such standard has emerged in this case,” he wrote then, “should not be taken to prove that none will emerge in the future.”
Editorials: The Best Way to Fix Gerrymandering Is to Make It Useless | Lee Drutman/The New York Times
In the months leading up to Monday’s Supreme Court punt on the gerrymandering cases out of Wisconsin and Maryland, those hoping the court would rein in partisan gerrymanders had been cautiously optimistic. Justice Anthony Kennedy made it known that if a “workable standard” could be found to distinguish legitimate districting from partisan gerrymandering, he might sign onto it. Reformers thought they had found that standard in something called the “efficiency gap.” But for now, with the court’s decision to not rule on the central questions the cases raise, we still lack a standard. The light is still green for state legislatures to draw maps as they please, and tempt their luck in the lower courts.
Wisconsin: Democrats seek to bring case back to Supreme Court before 2020 elections | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin Republicans are claiming victory with Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to send a lawsuit over the state’s legislative boundaries back to a lower court without addressing whether the map is constitutionally drawn. But Democrats say the ruling doesn’t put the legal fight to bed as Republicans suggest, and vow to clear any hurdle to get the nation’s highest court to answer the question of whether Wisconsin’s districts are so partisan that they violate the Constitution before the next round of map drawing.
The Supreme Court declined on Monday to address the central questions in two closely watched challenges to partisan gerrymandering, putting off for another time a ruling on the constitutionality of voting districts designed by legislatures to amplify one party’s political power. In a challenge to a redistricting plan devised by the Republican Legislature in Wisconsin, the court unanimously said that the plaintiffs had not proved that they had suffered the sort of direct injury that would give them standing to sue. The justices sent the case back to a trial court to allow the plaintiffs to try again to prove that their voting power had been directly affected by the way state lawmakers drew voting districts for the State Assembly. In the second case, the court unanimously ruled against the Republican challengers to a Democratic plan to redraw a Maryland congressional district. In a brief unsigned opinion, the court said the challengers had waited too long to seek an injunction blocking the district, which was drawn in 2011.
Among major democracies, only in the United States are self-interested politicians given the exclusive power to design election districts for themselves and their allies. Other countries lodge this power with independent commissions. In the absence of such institutions, the pressure for courts to impose constitutional constraints on partisan gerrymandering becomes powerful, particularly as the manipulation of electoral districts for partisan advantage has become more brazen, more extreme, more effective and more consequential. Decisions on two cases Monday by the Supreme Court — an alleged Republican gerrymander in Wisconsin and a Democratic one in Maryland — shut down one novel approach to attacking partisan gerrymanders on constitutional grounds.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to decide Monday whether it’s constitutional for states to create electoral maps that give an advantage to one political party over another, preserving district boundaries in Georgia and across the nation. The court’s decision leaves in place partisan gerrymandering — the practice of state legislators drawing districts to help ensure the election of Republicans or Democrats. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Wisconsin Democrats, saying they failed to prove they had a right to sue statewide rather than challenging individual legislative districts. The court also decided against Maryland Republicans who had sought a preliminary injunction in a case involving a congressional district. Separate lawsuits contesting Georgia’s districts are still pending.
North Carolina: Is North Carolina partisan gerrymander case up next after Supreme Court ‘punts’ on Wisconsin and Maryland? | McClatchy
The U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped making a landmark ruling on Monday about when gerrymandering for partisan gain goes too far, leaving some legal analysts to speculate that North Carolina could have the next case to test that question. The justices issued long-awaited rulings in Wisconsin and Maryland cases that could have had a profound stamp on legislative redistricting in the states and reshape American politics. Instead, the justices sent both cases back to lower courts for further proceedings, a move largely described on social media as “a punt.” That means the next case in the queue for the Supreme Court is the North Carolina lawsuit questioning whether the Republican-controlled General Assembly went too far in 2016 when it redrew the state’s 13 congressional districts in response to a court order. A panel of federal judges ruled in January that North Carolina’s congressional districts were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders, and an appeal awaits action by the Supreme Court.
The Wisconsin legislative map at the heart of the U.S. Supreme Court’s closely watched redistricting case is a stark example of how district lines can be drawn to keep one party in power in a very purple state no matter how it is faring at the ballot box. In good times and bad, Wisconsin Republicans have enjoyed a virtual lock on the 99-seat state Assembly, thanks to the map they drew in 2011. Their control of the Legislature is essentially baked in before voters go to the polls to pick their representatives. How tilted is the map? Here is one way to measure it: Take the top-of-the-ticket statewide election results (for governor or president) as a measure of how many people are supporting each party in a given year. Then see how those voters are distributed across the state’s 99 Assembly districts to find out how many seats favor each party.