On Monday, The Supreme Court announced it would hear a case relating to the practice of partisan gerrymandering, a strategy in which politicians redraw district lines in order to sweep specific communities likely to be aligned with a political party and prevent the opposition from gaining power. The decision could reshape American political battles for generations to come.
The New York Times notes that the Supreme court has previously struck down laws pertaining to gerrymandering across racial lines, but not across partisan divides. This latest case is an appeal made with regards to the legislative map for the Wisconsin State Assembly, which was redrawn after Republicans gained control of the area in 2010. The redrawn map was rejected as unconstitutional, a first in 30 years.
“Partisan gerrymandering of this kind is worse now than at any time in recent memory,” said Paul Smith, a lawyer for the voters who challenged the map. “The Supreme Court has the opportunity to ensure the maps in Wisconsin are drawn fairly, and further, has the opportunity to create ground rules that safeguard every citizen’s right to freely choose their representatives.”
The Supreme Court will likely be divided evenly about the decision, with Justice Kennedy as the wild card who could lean one way or the other. Critics of the practice suggest that independent commissions should be used to redraw district lines, not politicans who implicitly have a vested interest in the shape of certain districts.
Gerrymandering is often utilized by Republicans, whose voters tend to be in more spread out rural areas than Democrats who tend to collect in cities. By redrawing districts to encompass several Democrat-leaning territories, Republicans effectively cost Democrats votes beyond the majority needed to elect a blue politician in that area. If this practice is found to be illegal, the literal shape of certain districts and counties in the future may need to be entirely reformed, which would likely lead to the creation of inventive new political strategies in both parties.
"This will be the biggest and most important election law case in decades. However the Court rules will affect elections for years to come," said Josh Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law who specializes in election law and voting rights, to CNN.
[Photo: Getty Images]