redistricting

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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. Read More

National: Supreme Court Avoids an Answer on Partisan Gerrymandering | The New York Times

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. Read More

Editorials: California took a radical step to fix gerrymandering. Did it work? | Washington Post

This redistricting process is as old as the republic, enshrined in the Constitution. It has been controversial from the start and vulnerable to distortion. Politicians with the power to draw the lines have done so to gain advantage — whether that meant ensuring that incumbents were reelected or that the political party in power produced districts that gave them a disproportionate share of the seats.This term, the Supreme Court is considering the role of partisanship. But is there a fair and equitable way to draw these district lines? Some states, California being the biggest, have decided the only way to produce fairer lines is to try to take politicians out of the process. Every redistricting cycle has produced oddly shaped districts, with lines snaking here and there across counties and neighborhoods. To the naked eye, there is no logic to the lines. To those who have drawn them, they are designed to give somebody, some group or some party an advantage, or to assure that racial minorities receive adequate representation. Read More

Pennsylvania: Anti-gerrymandering bill amended by Senate GOP; Democrats call it ‘poison pill’ | Philadelphia Inquirer

With time running out to alter how Pennsylvania’s political maps will be drawn in 2021, Republicans in the state Senate made a dramatic change to a redistricting bill Tuesday that prompted key activists to pull their support and begin lobbying against it. One day before the bill came up for a final vote in the chamber, State Sen. Ryan Aument (R., Lancaster) introduced an amendment that would allow voters to decide whether appellate judges — including state Supreme Court justices — should be elected from regional districts rather than statewide. Democrats described it as a “poison pill” and an attempt to retaliate against Democratic state Supreme Court justices who just five months earlier voted to overturn the state’s congressional lines on the ground that they had been gerrymandered to favor Republicans. Read More

Michigan: State Supreme Court to decide on redistricting ballot question | Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court is about to have a political hot mess dumped on its lap. The court will decide whether voters will vote on an overhaul of how Michigan draws legislative and congressional districts. The group Voters Not Politicians has submitted some 425,000 petition signatures to get the question about amending the state constitution before voters in November. Currently, in Michigan, redistricting is done by the state Legislature. It’s been controlled by Republicans for the last twenty years. The Voters Not Politicians campaign wants the job to go to an independent commission. Read More

Editorials: A ticking clock on Virginia redistricting | Richmond Times Dispatch

The Virginia Supreme Court’s decision upholding 11 challenged legislative districts shows just how high a bar opponents of gerrymandering need to clear. The anti-gerrymandering group OneVirginia2021 brought the case, arguing that the 11 districts violated the state’s constitutional requirement that districts must be compact. It brought in experts who testified that the districts failed to meet various statistical tests for compactness. For instance, Michael McDonald argued that reducing the compactness of an ideally compact district by more than 50 percent in order to meet other considerations not required by the Virginia Constitution meant that those latter considerations predominated over compactness — and any such predomination was unconstitutional. Read More

National: Goofy, Elephant, Squid: How Political Gamesmanship Distorts Voters’ Power | The New York Times

They sound like possible program titles for the Cartoon Network: Goofy Kicking Donald Duck, The Earmuffs, The Broken-Winged Pterodactyl, The Upside-Down Elephant, The Fat Squid, A Steamed Crab Hit by a Mallet. Actually, they were the shapes some people saw when looking at federal and state legislative districts that had been gerrymandered to within an inch of their lives. For the record, Goofy was in Pennsylvania, the earmuffs in Illinois, the pterodactyl in Maryland, the elephant in Texas, and the squid and steamed crab in North Carolina. About all they had in common with cartoons was that critics dismissed these squiggly and lumpy legislative lines as loony tunes, and courts rejected some of them as unconstitutional. Gerrymandering — the manipulation of political boundaries by the party in office in hopes of ensuring its enduring primacy — is almost as old as the republic.

The term has been around for more than 200 years, ever since Gov. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts approved a redistricting scheme that included a State Senate district resembling, some thought, a salamander. Across generations, Democrats and Republicans alike have exercised this power vigorously when they have been in charge.

But over the last two or three decades, aided by clever map-drawing software, Republicans have turbocharged the process in some states where they have total political control. And they are dominant to an extent that Democrats can only envy, having captured both the governorship and the legislature in 26 states, a monopoly that Democrats claim in only eight.

Whether the partisan gerrymandering now at work has morphed from an unsavory (if long-tolerated) practice into an insidious distortion of democracy is being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court. It is a matter that also underlies this installment of Retro Report, a series of video documentaries revisiting major news stories of old to explore how they continue to shape modern events.

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National: Supreme Court to rule soon on partisan gerrymander cases: Last, best chance for fair elections? | Salon

It’s almost decision day for partisan gerrymandering. Fewer than four weeks remain in this U.S. Supreme Court session, so rulings in two crucial cases from Maryland and Wisconsin will arrive sometime between this Tuesday and mid-June. There’s national momentum towards fair districts. Judges and citizens have been slowly fighting back against the most extreme partisan manipulations of the system. Rigged maps in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have been struck down. A bipartisan commission won an overwhelming victory in Ohio this month, and an even stronger commission seems likely to be on the ballot in Michigan this fall. Ballot initiatives have also advanced in Colorado, Utah, Missouri and Arkansas. Nevertheless, no one should expect a grand democracy-saving gesture from the Supreme Court. Yes, justices from across the court’s ideological spectrum have agreed that partisan gerrymandering is “distasteful.” They have expressed revulsion over naked power grabs, entrenched majorities insulated from the ballot box, and real fear that new technology and Big Data could make everything even worse when the next redistricting occurs after the 2020 census. Read More

Michigan: Redistricting group has signatures, still fighting to make ballot | The Detroit News

A group trying change the way Michigan draws political boundaries rallied Thursday at the Capitol and urged state officials to put the proposal on the November ballot despite a legal challenge. The Michigan Bureau of Elections said Tuesday that Voters Not Politicians turned in an estimated 394,092 signatures, more than the 315,654 required, for a ballot initiative to create an independent redistricting commission that would redo congressional and legislative maps every ten years instead of lawmakers. The Board of State Canvassers was set to consider certification Thursday but on Wednesday cancelled the meeting, citing ongoing litigation. Organizers and volunteers came to the Capitol anyway. Read More

Colorado: Voters will decide how the state draws political lines | Colorado Springs Independent

Colorado’s Democratic governor has thrown his weight behind two statewide ballot measures that, if passed by voters in November, would change how political lines are drawn for state legislative and congressional seats and give unaffiliated voters more of a voice in the process. “This is normally a full-contact sport,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said on May 16, a reference to Colorado’s partisan battles over redistricting in past decades that have left Republicans and Democrats embittered about how the legislative maps are created. The same might also have been said about initial proposals to change the way Colorado draws its political maps, which began with crossed swords and ended in a handshake. Read More