The Supreme Court is wading into the thicket of partisan redistricting in a case from Wisconsin. The justices on Monday said they will decide whether Republican lawmakers drew electoral districts so out of whack with the state's political breakdown that they violated the constitutional rights of Democratic voters. It's the high court's first case on what's known as partisan gerrymandering in more than a decade, and the outcome could affect elections across the country. Democrats hope a favorable decision will help them cut into GOP electoral majorities. Election law experts say the case is the best chance yet for the high court to put limits on what lawmakers may do to gain a partisan advantage in creating political district maps. The case will be argued in the fall.
A three-judge court struck down Wisconsin's legislative districts in November and ordered new maps drawn in time for the 2018 elections. That work is proceeding. The Constitution requires states to redo their political maps to reflect population changes identified in the once-a-decade census. The issue of gerrymandering—creating districts that often are oddly shaped and with the aim of benefiting one party—is centuries old. Both parties have sought the largest partisan edge when they control redistricting. Yet the AP reports 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. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)