US Supreme Court Decision a “Roadmap” for a Ruling on Partisan Gerrymandering Case

A unanimous US Supreme Court handed down a decision in Gill v. Whitford, a case challenging the extreme partisan gerrymandering of Wisconsin voting districts by the GOP legislature. The Court remanded the technical issue of “standing” back to the same three-judge panel that had ruled Wisconsin legislative districts unconstitutional. The Court did not rule on the merits, leaving the door open for a ruling that may still rein in computer-aided, hyper-partisan gerrymandering. Read the ruling here.

The ruling was described as a “punt” by some observers, but the lawyer representing disenfranchised Wisconsin voters is hopeful that the issue can be remedied and sent back to the court for a ruling on the merits. Advocates are hoping that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has expressed concern about this type of gerrymandering may pave the way for a positive outcome.

Citing Kennedy, Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her concurrence that “partisan gerrymandering, as this Court has recognized, is ‘incompatible with democratic principles’… the practice enables politicians to entrench themselves in power against the people’s will.”

Paul Smith of the Campaign Legal Center argued the case before the Court on October 3, 2017. He explained the ruling at a press conference.

“The Court issued a unanimous decision saying that the plaintiffs did not yet prove they had standing to persue the gerrymandering claim… saying essentially that our theory of statewide vote dilution does not work under a standing law that does not produce a sufficiently ‘concrete and particularized’ injury for each of the plaintiffs,” said Smith. The Court said “you have to look at the issue on a district by district basis.”

The constitutional requirement of “standing” limits participation in lawsuits to those directly impacted. To have standing, a party must show an “injury in fact” to their own legal interests. The court effectively ruled that the lead plaintiff, William Whitford, lacked…

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