Supreme Court Arguments Bode Badly For Partisan Gerrymandering

Jon Howard
October 6, 2017

Attorneys for the Pennsylvania General Assembly declined to comment but argued to the judge a decision shouldn't be made until the U.S. Supreme court reaches a verdict of a similar case in Wisconsin.

"You are the only institution in the United States. that can solve this problem", Smith added. "And this is really the last opportunity" to act before the next round of redistricting following the census of 2020. When the court ultimately did get involved and establish it could have a say in political redistricting issues in the landmark 1962 case Baker v. Carr, Frankfurter warned it would undermine the court's integrity.

And, as might be expected, questions from several of the Republican-named jurists showed them seeking to preserve political gerrymanders.

Redistricting typically is done by the party controlling a state's legislature.

The name comes from Elbridge Gerry, a founding father, the fifth vice president of the United States, and the governor of MA, who signed a bill that created the first curiously misshapen district in the state designed to elect Democratic-Republicans over Federalists in 1812. For example, someone drawing district lines might cluster opposition party voters together in one district in order to concentrate their votes so that they influence only a few seats.

It had been diminishing over time and left for good on December 12, 2000, when the court, in a 5-4 decision, halted the vote-counting in Florida and handed a disputed overtime presidential election to Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore. "Their party has been punished by the law of the state of Wisconsin", Smith said.

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Five Pennsylvania voters challenged the state's Congressional boundaries in federal court Monday, charging they're gerrymandered to favor Republicans. 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". The Brennan Center for Justice found that Republicans have a "durable majority" of 16-17 seats in the House, mostly in seven states where Republicans drew the district lines. As Sam Wang and Brian Remlinger of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project note, "Thanks to technology and political polarization, the effects of partisan gerrymandering since 2012 have been more pronounced than at any point in the previous 50 years".

The lower court concluded that the districting plans were drawn to eliminate swing districts and create ones favorable to Republicans.

Tonight, we discuss key cases before the court with Michael Scodro, partner at Mayer Brown and formerly the IL solicitor general and a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O' Connor; and Travis Lenkner, managing director at Burford Capital and previously a clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy.

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. Democrats tend to do better in presidential election years, and they could score big wins in the closely divided states.

Justice Samuel A. Alito agreed.

The left-leaning justices occupied much of the discussion and voiced concerns over the government's ability to indefinitely hold immigrants without a hearing while the court's righ-leaning justices questioned whether the court should be imposing deadlines for hearings in immigration matters. Under the Plaintiffs' theory, any voter, anywhere in any state, could complain that his or her vote was diminished by not being granted the right to be counted proportionally with other like-minded voters in the state to elect a proportional number within the legislature.

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