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Gerrymandering Cases Fall Short at Supreme Court

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

The U.S. Supreme Court forewarned politicians about gerrymandering in two cases, but left final judgments for another day.

In Gill v. Whitford, the High Court vacated and remanded a Wisconsin case on standing grounds. In Benisek v. Lamone, the Court declined to overrule an injunction in a Maryland case.

Some observers said the Court punted on the issues, but the justices really teed up the cases for further proceedings. In one opinion, four members of the Court complained of the "worst partisan gerrymanders on record."

"Worst" Gerrymandering

Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, concurred that the case had to go back down for standing considerations. But they took the opportunity to rebuke politicians in Wisconsin.

"The 2010 redistricting cycle produced some of the worst partisan gerrymanders on record," she wrote in Gill. "The technology will only get better, so the 2020 cycle will only get worse."

In Benisek, the justices had little sympathy for the plaintiffs who wanted an injunction to stop elections in Maryland. In an unsigned opinion, the Court said voter group waited too long.

"The record suggests that the delay largely arose from a circumstance within plaintiffs' control: namely, their failure to plead the claims giving rise to their request for preliminary injunctive relief until 2016," the Court said.

Maps to Remain

As a result of the decisions, the challenges may continue but the voting districts will remain through the next election.

According to reports, the Supreme Court has not decided a major partisan gerrymandering case since 2004. Court watchers thought Justice Anthony Kennedy might have joined Kagan in pushing back against the states on political districts.

Kennedy, however, did not express an opinion on the issue.

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