High Court ducks contentious gerrymandering cases

Approaching its final weeks of the term, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday evaded two legal challenges over the extent to which state legislatures can reach to cement power by means of creating electoral districts favorable to a political party.

In both cases, one in Wisconsin brought about by Democrats and a second in Maryland filed by Republicans, justices returned disputed gerrymandered district maps back to lower courts.

In Wisconsin’s case, Gill v. Whitford, the court ruled the state was within its right to create districts which helped the GOP maintain its hold over the state legislature due to the plaintiffs’ failure to demonstrate Democrats “suffering statewide injury.”

Writing for a unanimous bench, Chief Justice John Roberts rejected a lower court ruling claiming the existing districts deprived Democrats in America’s Dairyland of their Constitutional rights:

“It is a case about group political interests, not individual legal rights. But this court is not responsible for vindicating generalized partisan preferences.  Our cases to date have not found that this presents an individual and personal injury of the kind required for Article III standing.”

Despite the ruling, Campaign Legal Center vice president, Paul Smith, said plaintiffs will still have a chance to win in a lower court hearing “to demonstrate the real and concrete harms that result from partisan gerrymandering”.

In a second case in Maryland, Benisek v. Lamone, the court refused to block the state’s 6th Congressional District as redrawn by the Democrats.  Justices did, however, clear the way for plaintiffs to continue its legal case.

Responding to Maryland Republicans in a per curium decision, the court ruled since the state has used the redrawn congressional map for three election cycles, plaintiffs were “unlikely” to suffer “irreparable harm” over its continued use.

Legal experts say the Court’s refusal to fully address gerrymandering will pave the way for further suits on the issue to return to the High Court.

A similar North Carolina case awaits following the Supreme Court’s decision in January to throw out a GOP-drawn district in Pennsylvania state Democrats argued marginalized voters.


[Washington Times] [Politico] [SCOTUSblog] [Photo courtesy AP]