SCOTUS Sidesteps Ruling on Gerrymandering in Wisconsin & Maryland

By Kenneth White

The justices for the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Wisconsin Democrats who challenged legislative districts that gave Republicans a huge edge in the state legislature. They also did not side with Maryland Republicans who objected to a single congressional district.

The Wisconsin case originally filed on July 8th, 2015, resulted in a three-judge federal panel allowing the case to go to trial in 2016. In November of that year, a 2-1 decision declared the map of districts in Wisconsin to be unconstitutional, but the decision rested in part on the use of a measurement system called the ‘Efficiency Gap’, developed by a law professor and the lead prosecutor for the plaintiffs Nicholas Stephanopoulos. The Efficiency Gap relates to the number of wasted votes for each party across the state. The dissenting judge, William C. Griesbach, wrote that more appropriate measures could be taken to prevent partisan gerrymandering.

Originally filed in 2013, the Maryland case centers on the redistricting of the state of Maryland, as drawn up by the prevailing Democratic party in 2011, which diluted the number of Republican voters in the 6th district that had historically voted for Republican candidates. Affected voters filed suit, stating that the redistricting violated their right of representation under Article One, Section Two of the U.S. Constitution and freedom of association of the First Amendment. SCOTUS previously remanded the case back to the Appeals court in 2015. As part of a new case in 2016, plaintiffs filed to block the district map in anticipation of the 2018 election, which meant further delays around a decision, ending with the case moving to the Supreme court, which the court just ruled on this Monday, June 18th, finding that the Appeals Court’s denial of the injunction was not improper, but otherwise did not weigh in on the merits of the gerrymandering aspects.

As to the Maryland case, SCOTUS issued a per curiam decision, which is a ruling issued by an appellate court of multiple judges in which the decision rendered is made by the court acting collectively. This is in contrast to regular opinions and does not list the individual judge responsible for authoring the decision, but minority dissenting and concurring decisions are signed.

The controversial case of gerrymandering in North Carolina will again come before the Supreme Court of the United States very soon.

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