Gerrymandering, the process of drawing district lines to fortify one political party at the expense of another, is as old as the U.S. republic. In the late 1780s, Virginia Governor Patrick Henry, who opposed ratifying the new Constitution, got allies in his state’s legislature to draw a congressional district map unfavorable to James Madison, the father of the founding document. (Madison won anyway.) Good-government groups grouse that gerrymandering lets politicians choose their constituents, rather than the other way around. But as the courts get more involved, others fret about judges interfering in politics.
Pennsylvania: Supreme Court turns down gerrymander appeal from Pennsylvania’s GOP | Los Angeles Times
The Supreme Court refused Monday to block a new election map for Pennsylvania that gives Democrats a chance to win four or more congressional seats in November. The justices turned down a second and final appeal from Pennsylvania’s Republican leaders, who defended the gerrymandered districts that had given them a steady 13-5 advantage over the Democrats for years. The new map gives Democrats a good chance to win half of the 18 House seats. Last week, they celebrated picking up a Republican seat when Conor Lamb claimed victory in a special election for a seat in southwestern Pennsylvania. Republicans have not conceded that race as final provisional ballots are counted. Lamb and all other candidates will run this fall in districts that have been redrawn.
Filing opens Friday for candidates running in South Carolina’s 2018 election — from the governor and statewide offices to congressional and S.C. House races. But hanging over this election season are two U.S. Supreme Court cases that could reshape the state’s elections. Wisconsin Democrats claim that state’s election districts are so politically gerrymandered — redistricted to favor Republican candidates — that they violate voters’ constitutional rights. In another case before the Supreme Court, Maryland Republicans claim Democrats in that state unfairly gerrymandered a congressional district to favor their party. The justices’ decisions, expected this summer, could change the way election lines are drawn for federal, state and local races in South Carolina and across the country.
U.S. Supreme Court justices on Wednesday debated the legality of a Minnesota law barring voters from wearing political apparel at polling places, struggling to draw the line between protecting free speech and preventing voter intimidation. Minnesota’s law, challenged by conservative activists, prohibits badges, buttons, hats, T-shirts or other items with overly political messages inside polling sites during elections. At least nine other states have similar laws. During a one-hour argument before the nine-member court, several justices peppered attorneys on both sides with hypothetical examples of apparel, challenging them to say whether they would be acceptable in a voting site or not. Liberal Justice Elena Kagan wondered about “Make America Great Again” and “Resist,” popular slogans for supporters or opponents of President Donald Trump.
President Trump added his voice on Saturday to the continued conservative outcry over the court-ordered redistricting of the Pennsylvania congressional map, calling the decision “very unfair to Republicans and to our country.” “Democrat judges have totally redrawn election lines in the great State of Pennsylvania,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “This is very unfair to Republicans and to our country as a whole. Must be appealed to the United States Supreme Court ASAP!” The Supreme Court this month denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to stop the state’s highest court from requiring lawmakers to redraw the map of the state’s 18 House districts. The new map, released by the state court this past week, effectively eliminates the Republican advantage in Pennsylvania, endangering several incumbent Republican seats and bolstering Democrat standings in two open races.
Pennsylvania: GOP asks the U.S. Supreme Court to block Pennsylvania redistricting | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Republicans have intensified their fight over Pennsylvania’s new congressional map, appealing to the nation’s highest court on Wednesday and reviving talk of impeaching the state Democratic Supreme Court justices who threw out the old map. Top GOP lawmakers submitted an emergency request to the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, asking the justices to block implementation of the new district boundaries. Meanwhile, national and state Republicans were preparing a separate federal challenge to the map. House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, submitted their application for a stay Wednesday evening.
North Carolina: Supreme Court Issues Partial Stay in North Carolina Voting Case | The New York Times
The Supreme Court partly granted on Tuesday a request from North Carolina Republicans to block a voting map drawn by a federal court there. That court had interceded after finding that a map drawn by state lawmakers for the General Assembly had relied too heavily on race and had violated state laws. The Supreme Court’s order, which was brief and gave no reasons, partly blocked that decision while the justices consider whether to hear an appeal in the case. The justices seemed to split into three camps: Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have granted the entire request; Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have granted none of it; and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Neil M. Gorsuch appeared to take the middle position.
If there was any doubt that state Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, redistricting czars Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise and others in the North Carolina legislature’s Republican leadership are marching to the beat of a drummer only they can hear, the U.S. Supreme Court offered loud and clear evidence Monday. We can only hope the message made it through to Berger and his gang. Justice Samuel Alito turned down a request from the state’s Republicans to delay redrawing congressional district lines. He said GOP legislative leaders in Pennsylvania violated the state constitution by unfairly favoring Republicans.
Editorials: Justice Alito prepares an attack on state sovereignty over voting rights | Mark Stern/Slate
The Supreme Court’s conservative bloc may be preparing an attack on state sovereignty in order to maintain a Republican gerrymander through the 2018 midterms. Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated the state’s current congressional map, ruling that it favored the GOP in violation of the state constitution and ordering a new, nonpartisan map. Republican legislative leaders asked Justice Samuel Alito, who reviews emergency appeals out of Pennsylvania, to block the decision. Because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision involved only state law, Alito should’ve denied the request outright. Instead, he has ordered voting rights advocates to respond, raising the real possibility that a majority of the justices will vote to halt the ruling. If they do, the intervention will mark an extraordinary expansion of the court’s power to prevent states from protecting their residents’ voting rights.
Editorials: The Supreme Court’s Elections Clause dilemma in Pennsylvania | Lyle Denniston/Constitution Daily
The Constitution has had an Elections Clause since it first went into effect in 1789, but the Supreme Court has rarely given an interpretation of its meaning. But what the Supreme Court has said creates a dilemma for the Justices as they decide soon what to do about the claim that Pennsylvania’s state legislature engaged in partisan gerrymandering when it drew up election districts for choosing the state’s 18 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican legislative leaders in the state have asked the Justices to put on hold, and then review, a decision earlier this month by the state Supreme Court that the 2011 congressional map was a partisan-driven effort and that it violates the state constitution. The voters and political organizations that won the case in the state’s highest court have been told to file by Friday a reply to the request for a postponement of the ruling at issue. The state GOP leaders’ first hurdle will be to persuade five of the nine Justices to grant a postponement. But an even bigger hurdle is to persuade the Justices that the Supreme Court should get involved in second-guessing the state court’s interpretation of its own constitution.