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'Gerrymandering' returns before US Supreme Court

29 March 2018

"What is this, except about politics?" In one analysis, Maryland is tied with North Carolina as the most gerrymandered states in the country.

State Republicans attempted to block the new Pennsylvania Supreme Court-drawn map by challenging it in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Summing all this up, The Week's Damon Linker, a former conservative, says Republicans "decided to embrace flagrant cheating" in the last redistricting cycle to ensure a House majority via gerrymandering.

But to a surprising degree, the justices still seemed uncertain as to how to rule.

Over the past 16 months, courts have struck down political districting plans drawn by Republicans in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Chief Justice John Roberts, however, anxious about the courts getting involved in the issue expressing some concern that it could make them look political. Republicans won sweeping victories in the 2010 midterm elections, and they used their power to redraw election maps so as to maintain control of the House of Representatives.

"Polling on this is off the charts", Hogan said in an interview, adding, "Democrats, Republicans, independents - everyone thinks that citizens should be able to pick their representatives, rather than have it the other way around, where representatives get to pick their voters".

Egg hunts on the beach at Belmont Park
Come March 31, the hunt will be on at Jaycee Park as thousands of kids will swarm the park looking for shiny foil-covered eggs. Once each age group's hunt began, excited parents cheered from the sidelines as if they were at a football or baseball game.

Easier was to put numerous Republicans in the old 6th District into the overwhelmingly Democratic 8th District.

Once seated, the commission would have the task of drawing maps for all three types of legislative districts, passing preliminary plans and, after public hearings, passing final plans by August 15 of, in this case, 2021.

The justices declined in March to hear an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans who want to reverse the ruling by the state Supreme Court, dominated by Democrats, which eliminated congressional districts drawn by Republicans and drew districts to suit the court. Pennsylvania elections may not affect SC college students, but the midterm elections (and national election) certainly do, and the change in gerrymandering policy in Pennsylvania may find its way south of the Mason-Dixon line soon enough.

Wisconsin Republicans have shown before they're willing to play hardball on election rules since taking full control of government in 2011.

"It would be the equivalent of a tsunami", said Michael Li, a senior counsel who heads up redistricting work for the center, which is based at New York University School of Law. If so, they could use their control over the election maps to give Democrats a decade-long advantage in Congress. But Justice Anthony Kennedy took a middle position, arguing that partisan gerrymanders might be unconstitutional if the right theory could be found, but that he had not yet encountered such a theory. For one thing, that case involved a Democratic gerrymander; perhaps the Justices wanted to balance a decision overturning one party's gerrymander in Wisconsin with another's in Maryland (the appearance of partisan judicial motives seemed to be a big deal to Chief Justice Roberts in the Wisconsin oral arguments). Kennedy followed up by asking, rhetorically, "How is this case different?" Kennedy asked Steven Sullivan, Maryland's state solicitor. "Although this report focuses on Democrats, its warnings apply with equal force to Republicans". Kennedy interjected with a tone of sarcasm.

As for the maps themselves, the commission would be barred from considering addresses of incumbents, political affiliations of voters or past election results in setting the lines.

But Breyer's comments also suggested that the court has not settled on the right answer. We're just trying to explain why this one isn't manageable.

Brad's forecast | Heavy rain through the day Monday
Thursday , we're good to go with another springy day under a good mix of clouds and sun, highs will get into the low to mid 50s. If you have Easter travel plans this weekend, Friday and Saturday will be days to keep an eye on as we move throughout the week.

When the Wisconsin case was argued in the fall, a majority of the court seemed at least open to the possibility that some kinds of partisan gerrymandering are unconstitutional.

Breyer's comment is a sign that the justices haven't figured out the Wisconsin case in the almost six months since it was argued. In yet another case, a federal court in 2016 redrew congressional districts after ruling that black voters had been illegally packed into a particular district to diminish their voting strength elsewhere.

Whatever its effects, redistricting reform is a worthwhile project for both parties to pursue before the next round of map-making occurs in 2021.

There was broad agreement that the Republican voters who sued presented what Justice Sonia Sotomayor called "pretty damning" evidence that the Democrats who controlled the state government wanted to increase the Democrats' edge in the congressional from 6-2 to 7-1.

Maryland Democratic leaders set out in 2011 to redraw the state's congressional districts to boost the likelihood that the party's 6-to-2 edge in the delegation became 7 to 1, the state's Democratic former governor Martin O'Malley recalled previous year.

The Maryland case, Benisek v. Lamone, tilts the other way politically.

Sun to start Wednesday, isolated showers by afternoon
All in all, Easter weekend won't be a total loss because of the weather, it just won't be sunny, warm and definitely not 100% dry. Low temperatures will stay in the low to mid 40s with winds from the north increasing to 10 miles per hour by morning.

'Gerrymandering' returns before US Supreme Court