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Justice Kennedy On Hot Seat In Major Voting Rights Case

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Pennsylvania's oddly shaped 7th District is often cited as an extreme example of gerrymandering

Vladeck said that while partisan gerrymandering has played a role in US elections since the 19th century, access to better data has given politicians the ability to carve and create favorable districts in a "more shameless" fashion that heretofore. "And this is really the last opportunity" to act before the next round of redistricting following the census of 2020.

Namely, attorney David Gersch argued, counts in the Pennsylvania suit that relate to freedom of speech and expression can't be made moot by the U.S. Supremes because the state constitution has broader protections in that area. That would have the potential to undermine Republican control of the House of Representatives as well as several state legislatures. There might even be some Democrats elected-moderates, probably, who could take enough of the Republican vote to go over the top.

Kennedy, who sometimes sides with the court's liberal justices in big rulings, did not definitively tip his hand on how he would rule but posed tough questions to Wisconsin's lawyers that signaled his aversion to electoral districts drawn to give one party a lopsided advantage in elections. At one point, he asked one of them to imagine that a state passed a law saying its election maps will always "favor party X or party Y. Is that constitutional?" he asked.

The chief justice expressed worry that the court's legitimacy and authority would be hurt if the court struck down what most observers agree is extreme partisan gerrymandering by Republicans in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin's electoral map, drawn after the 2010 US census, enabled Republicans to win a sizable majority of Wisconsin legislative seats despite losing the popular vote statewide to the Democrats. According to legend, when a political opponent described the shape of one of the districts as resembling the shape of a salamander, a colleague replied, "No, it looks more like a Gerrymander". In Vieth v Jubelirer, a gerrymandering case from 2004, four justices rejected the notion that courts were equipped to monitor partisan gerrymandering at all. "What is new is that with computers, with programs, you can be much more creative in drawing those lines".

The ruling in the case could help clarify the crimes for which noncitizen immigrants may be expelled, affecting the Trump administration's policy of stepping up the removal of those with criminal records.

Republicans like Malone are on the short end of the gerrymandering stick in Maryland.

Republicans argue that the Wisconsin map reflects the fact that Democrats have packed themselves into cities, while Republicans are better distributed across the state.

"Gerrymandering is distasteful", conservative Justice Samuel Alito said.

Gorsuch pushed on what standard the court could use to decide the cases - "what is the formula?" he asked. Seated, front row, from left are, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, and Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.

"That is going to cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court in the eyes of the country", Roberts added.

Ballard said those procedures must be neutral, and in Pennsylvania, Republican lawmakers drew on partisan data about voters to craft boundaries that favor the GOP. It also devalues the vote of voters who already reside in districts that were gerrymandered to destroy the democratic efficacy of voting in those districts, which were altered to achieve an outcome predetermined by the gerrymandering party.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday struggled for the second time over how to resolve whether immigrants detained by the U.S. government for more than six months should be able to seek their release while deportation proceedings unfold.

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