Partisan Gerrymandering Fight Expanded by U.S. Supreme CourtBy
Court will hear Republican challenge to Maryland district
Justices already heard arguments on Wisconsin voting map
The U.S. Supreme Court expanded its review of partisan gerrymandering, agreeing to consider arguments that a Maryland congressional district was unconstitutionally drawn to ensure the ouster of a Republican lawmaker.
The justices already are considering a more sweeping gerrymandering case, hearing arguments in October on a Wisconsin lawsuit that challenges the entire Republican-drawn state Assembly map.
The Maryland case adds several twists to the fight, including a reversal in which party was seeking to benefit. Maryland Democrats are defending the redrawing of the 6th District, which includes the westernmost part of the state. The district was held by Republican Representative Roscoe Bartlett until it was redrawn in 2011 to be more heavily Democratic. Democrat John Delaney now represents the district.
The new case also represents a narrower challenge, aimed at a single district rather than a statewide map. In a different context, the Supreme Court has said claims of racial gerrymandering should generally be resolved on a district-by-district basis.
The Supreme Court has never struck down a legislative map or district as being too partisan. The Wisconsin case is designed to resolve whether statewide maps can be challenged in court and, if so, what opponents must show to win their case.
In the Maryland case, a three-judge panel said Republican voters could press their challenge. But in a second ruling, the panel refused to halt use of the challenged map, saying the voters hadn’t provided enough evidence that the new district lines were the reason the seat changed hands.
The Maryland voters say the redistricting violated their First Amendment rights, diluting their votes in a targeted way because of their past support for Republican candidates.
The Maryland case is Benisek v. Lamone, 17-333. The Wisconsin case is Gill v. Whitford, 16-1161.