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Top court to hear case that could reshape US political map

20 June 2017

A Supreme Court ruling faulting the Wisconsin redistricting plan could have far-reaching consequences for the redrawing of electoral districts due after the 2020 US census.

The case is Gill v. Whitford, SCOTUSblog reports. In the past, cases that seek to end partisan gerrymandering have failed, because the justices were unable to concur on what the standard for constitutional districting was. In 2014, the party garnered 52 percent of the vote and 63 state Assembly seats. In March, a panel of judges ruled that three of the state's 36 congressional districts were illegally drawn.

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Rep. Peter Barca, Wisconsin state Assembly Democratic minority leader: "Voters should be able to choose their representatives, not the other way around, and I have faith that the Supreme Court will do the right thing to help end the bad polarization we see in both Wisconsin and across America".

The two biggest parties have been gerrymandering for many years, adjusting the borders in such a way as to increase the chances of winning as many seats as possible both in the Senate and the general election.

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The state appealed to the supreme court, arguing that recent election results favoring Republicans were "a reflection of Wisconsin's natural political geography", with Democrats concentrated in urban areas including Milwaukee and Madison.

"We have now five members of the U.S House of Representatives who are Democrats and nine who are Republicans, and yet when you look at more of the voting patterns... what we can see is that, given how the vote tends to turn out, the Republicans do have, at the moment, an advantage". Instead, legislative leaders openly boasted they would gerrymander purely along partisan lines to unfairly give Republicans maximum advantage, as Lewis is shown doing in the video below. The Supreme Court has never struck down districts because of partisan advantage. The court announced Monday they will consider a partisan gerrymandering case from Wisconsin.

In a subsequent ruling, the lower court ordered that the Legislature must have a new redistricting plan in place by November 1, 2017, for the 2018 general election.

"We find that Act 43 was meant to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats", wrote Circuit Judge Kenneth Ripple in the lower district court ruling.

Many states had limited the electoral power of racial minorities by spreading them across a number of districts to prevent them populations from being numerous enough in each district to have a large effect.

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Rather than issue a ruling, however, the high court said it will hear the case on the merits.

A dispute over Wisconsin's Republican-drawn boundaries for the state legislature offers Democrats some hope of cutting into GOP electoral majorities across the United States.

Four justices - only Justice Clarence Thomas remains of that group - said it was not the court's business to make such decisions.

In 2012, Republicans won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote for Assembly candidates but captured 60 of the Assembly's 99 seats.

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Top court to hear case that could reshape US political map