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Supreme Court Just Punted on a Major Voting Issue

Justices sidestep big-picture ruling about gerrymandering
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 18, 2018 12:09 PM CDT
In this Oct. 3, 2017, file photo, people line up outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington to hear arguments in a case about political maps in Wisconsin that could affect elections across the country.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court has ruled on two gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland—but without deciding on the broader issue of whether electoral maps can give an unfair advantage to a political party, the AP reports. The justices unanimously ruled against Wisconsin Democrats who challenged legislative districts that gave Republicans a huge edge in the state legislature even though the state otherwise is closely divided; the court said the plaintiffs had failed to prove that they have the right to sue on a statewide basis. In a separate unsigned opinion, they also did not side with Maryland Republicans who objected to a single congressional district. As the Washington Post puts it, the rulings amounted to "a technical resolution of what has seemed to hold the promise of being a landmark decision."

The justices declined to decide any of the big questions before them:

  • Should courts even be involved in the political task of redistricting?
  • Is there a workable way to measure how much politics is too much?
  • Do the particular plans being challenged cross that line?

Waiting in the wings is a case from North Carolina that seemingly addresses some of the high court's concerns. The lawsuit filed by North Carolina Democrats has plaintiffs in each of the state's 13 congressional districts. Like Wisconsin, North Carolina is generally closely divided in politics, but Republicans hold a 10-3 edge in congressional seats.

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(Read more redistricting stories.)

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