At the heart of redistricting controversies is the issue of when one party "packs" or "cracks" voters.
Justices in the past have struck down electoral maps as illegal in the past. Instead, legislative leaders openly boasted they would gerrymander purely along partisan lines to unfairly give Republicans maximum advantage, as Lewis is shown doing in the video below.
Democrats sued, claiming that the new maps violated First Amendment protections in the Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act, and the case was originally heard before a three-judge federal panel in November 2016. Cracking, or spreading, Democratic voters across districts in which Republicans have small majorities wastes all of the Democratic votes when the Republican candidate wins.
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We are hopeful that the decision to hear this case will be the first step in addressing the partisan gerrymandering that is now shaping the House of Representatives as well as state legislatures across the country.
Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Democracy Program, also applauded the Supreme Court's announcement on Monday, calling it "a historic opportunity to address one of the biggest problems facing our electoral system". It split the court five different ways, with the bottom line being that the justices could not agree on a test to determine when normal political instincts such as protecting your own turned into an unconstitutional dilution of someone else's vote.
The court accepted Gill v. Whitford, a case from Wisconsin, where a divided panel of three federal judges a year ago ruled that the state's Republican leadership in 2011 pushed through a redistricting plan so partisan that it violated the Constitution's First Amendment and equal rights protections. It said the constitution has been violated if the new districts are "intended to to place a severe impediment on the effectiveness of the votes of individual citizens on the basis of their political affiliation", "has that effect" and "cannot be justified on other, legitimate legislative grounds". Last fall, the lower court ordered the Legislature to redraw its maps. In Illinois, Democrats have that control. Yet Democrats are more supportive of having courts rein in extreme districting plans, mainly because Republicans control more legislatures and drew districts after the 2010 census that enhanced their advantage in those states and in the House of Representatives. In 2014, Republicans won 52 percent of the vote and increased their state assembly majority to 63 seats.
Attorney General Brad Schimel released the following statement in response. Join us in a conversation about world events, the newsgathering process or whatever aspect of the news universe you find interesting or important. In addition, the case is getting attention because in recent years the court has considered racial inequities in political maps - but not the issue of how much partisan gerrymandering is reasonable.