Supreme Court

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Pennsylvania: Plaintiffs appeal gerrymandering case to Supreme Court after losing at trial | Philadelphia Inquirer

After federal judges rejected their contention that Pennsylvania’s congressional map was the product of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit have filed a direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 2-1 decision last week, a panel of federal judges sided with Republican lawmakers who drew Pennsylvania’s map in 2011. D. Brooks Smith, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, said that reform “must come from the political process itself, not the courts.” Read More

Texas: The Supreme Court takes on two redistricting cases from Texas | The Economist

The Supreme Court rejects about 99% of the 7,000 to 8,000 petitions that reach it each year. But when it comes to cases involving reapportionment—challenges to how states draw lines for congressional or state legislative elections—the justices can’t be quite so choosy. Congress has chipped away at the cases subject to mandatory review by the Supreme Court, but it has kept it for redistricting cases where an election looms and time is of the essence. If skewed electoral maps may need to be redrawn, a special three-judge federal court is convened to hear the case; an appeal goes right to the Supreme Court, bypassing America’s 13 circuit courts.  Read More

National: A Case for Math, Not ‘Gobbledygook,’ in Judging Partisan Voting Maps | The New York Times

In October, when the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could reshape American politics, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. registered an objection. There was math in the case, he said, and it was complicated. “It may be simply my educational background,” the chief justice said, presumably referring to his Harvard degrees in history and law. But he said that statistical evidence said to show that Wisconsin’s voting districts had been warped by political gerrymandering struck him as “sociological gobbledygook.” Last week, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. came to the defense of math. “It makes no sense for courts to close their eyes to new scientific or statistical methods,” he wrote in a decision striking down North Carolina’s congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Read More

Texas: Supreme Court adds Texas election case to those in Wisconsin, Maryland | USA Today

The way state legislatures draw election districts for political gain is coming to dominate the Supreme Court’s docket. The justices agreed Friday to hear two cases challenging congressional and state legislative districts in Texas, adding them to ones already pending from Wisconsin and Maryland. Other cases are brewing in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The Texas lawsuits involve more traditional challenges to the use of race in drawing district lines, something the high court deals with perennially from states with a history of violating the 1968 Voting Rights Act. By contrast, the Wisconsin and Maryland cases allege excessive political gerrymandering — designing districts to benefit one party over the other. Read More

National: Election Integrity or Voter Purge? | U.S. News & World Report

In a case that could directly affect the ongoing fight over access to the polls, the Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider whether Ohio and 17 other states can remove tens of thousands of legally registered voters from eligible-voter databases in Ohio, a perennial political battleground that President Donald Trump won by eight points in 2016. Yet the outcome of the case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, could not only encourage other states to follow suit but also bolster conservatives’ ongoing hunt to prove voter fraud – a disproven yet persistent belief that unregistered voters and non-U.S. citizens are illegally gaining access to the ballot box. “The stakes are high in this case,” Beth Taggart, spokeswoman for the Ohio chapter of the League of Women Voters, writes in an email interview. The League’s national and local chapters are among several organizations, including the ACLU and Brennan Center for Justice, who have joined the Randolph Institute, a civil- and voting-rights advocacy group, in fighting the law. Read More

Editorials: Will the Court Kill the Gerrymander? | Zachary Roth/The New York Review of Books

On Tuesday, a panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map, ruling it an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. State Republicans had drawn district lines with such ruthlessness that they had won ten out of thirteen seats in the 2016 election—77 percent—even though they got only 53 percent of the vote. GOP lawmakers, wrote Judge James Wynn Jr., had been “motivated by invidious partisan intent.” Republicans had openly admitted as much. “Nothing wrong with political gerrymandering,” declared one of the lawmakers leading the process at a 2016 hearing. “It is not illegal.” The GOP is likely to appeal Tuesday’s ruling to the Supreme Court on those grounds. Whether courts are empowered to block partisan gerrymanders—as opposed to gerrymanders involving racial discrimination, which just about everyone agrees are unconstitutional—is a question the justices considered in October when they heard Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to Wisconsin’s state assembly map. The fate of North Carolina’s map likely hangs on how the court decides Gill. A ruling is expected before the end of June. Read More

Texas: U.S. Supreme Court will review Texas redistricting | Austin American-Statesman

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that it will review lower-court rulings that ordered Texas to redraw 11 political districts found to be discriminatory. Texas officials appealed the rulings, which conluded that two congressional districts and nine Texas House districts were improperly drawn along racial lines in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Acting on the Texas appeal, a divided court blocked efforts to redraw the maps in September to allow time to consider whether to grant Texas’ request to overturn the rulings. On Friday, the court announced that it combined the two appeals and will hear oral arguments this spring. Read More

Ohio: Supreme Court appears sympathetic to Ohio voter purge effort | Associated Press

The Supreme Court appeared sympathetic Wednesday to states that seek to prune their voting rolls by targeting people who haven’t voted in a while. In a case from Ohio, opponents of the practice called it a violation of a federal law that was intended to increase the ranks of registered voters. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said minorities and homeless people appear to be disproportionately kicked off the rolls. But the court’s conservatives and possibly also Justice Stephen Breyer indicated that they would uphold the state’s effort. Ohio is among a handful of states that use voters’ inactivity to trigger a process that could lead to their removal from voter rolls. A ruling for Ohio could prompt other states to adopt the practice, which generally pits Democrats against Republicans. Read More

Ohio: Voter Challenges Election Roll Purge in Supreme Court Clash | Bloomberg

Larry Harmon got a surprise when he went to his Kent, Ohio, polling place for a 2015 local election: He was no longer registered and couldn’t vote. Election officials removed him from the rolls because he hadn’t voted since 2008 and didn’t respond to the notice they say they sent in 2011. The lawsuit he and two interest groups filed against Ohio is now part of a U.S. Supreme Court case that will shape the rights of thousands of people as the 2018 elections approach. The justices will decide how far states can go in purging their election databases of people who might have moved away. The case, set for argument Jan. 10, has become a proxy for the highly partisan fight over the country’s election rules. Republicans are calling for stepped-up efforts to prevent voter fraud, while Democrats say those moves are a thinly veiled campaign to stop liberals and minorities from casting ballots. Read More

Pennsylvania: U.S. Supreme Court: Lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s Congressional redistricting can proceed | Associated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to put on ice a federal lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s congressional districts approved after the 2010 census. Justice Samuel Alito on Friday rejected the requested stay of the lawsuit by five Pennsylvania voters against the governor and elections officials, a court official said Saturday. Republican leaders in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly had said in the request that a trial in the case could occur in about a month, as the justices are considering a Wisconsin gerrymandering case with what they call “substantively identical claims.” Read More