Top court to hear case that could reshape US political map

Justices could take up high-stakes fight over electoral maps

"I am pleased that the Court granted our request on this important issue". As part of agreeing to hear the case, the five conservatives on the Supreme Court (John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy) stayed the ruling, effectively removing the near-term requirement that Wisconsin redraw its map.

If the justices uphold a lower court's ruling, it would be the first time Supreme Court justices would be striking down a state's district boundaries for violating the Constitution because of political gerrymandering.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker remains confident that GOP-drawn legislative district maps will survive a Supreme Court review.

They said the results under the legislature's map were "remarkably similar" to election outcomes under earlier, court-drawn districts.

Campaign Legal Center attorney Paul Smith is the lead lawyer in the case challenging the maps.

A federal court in Texas is set to hear arguments on the complaints of racial gerrymandering in the state in July. He said that leaves plenty of time before a June filing deadline for state legislative races.

Sachin Chheda (SAH'-chihn CHAY'-dah) is director of the Fair Elections Project, which organized and launched the lawsuit.

In the election following adoption of the new maps, Republicans got just 48.6 percent of the statewide vote, but captured a 60-to-39 seat advantage in the State Assembly.

It is a political act that is as old as the American Republic, drawing its name as a "gerrymander" from a member of the Founding generation, Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, for his infamous state senate districting map so misshapen that it resembled an awkward salamander.

Schimel says the stay "preserves the Legislature's time, effort and resources while this case is pending". The case will not come up in a hearing before the Justices until their next term, starting in October.

A Supreme Court ruling faulting the Wisconsin redistricting plan could have far-reaching consequences for the redrawing of electoral districts due after the 2020 US census. He said he doesn't believe the court will rule until possibly the middle of 2018.

"If the court is not willing to draw a line here, it would suggest the court is unlikely ever to feel comfortable setting a limit", said Richard Pildes, an election law expert at New York University's law school.

As recently as 2015, the Court made clear that partisan gerrymanders are "incompatible with democratic principles". It could alter the tradition of political parties redrawing voting districts for their political advantage.

The Wisconsin case involves the state legislature.

Wisconsin Democratic Party chairwoman Martha Laning said, however, that she is "confident that the 2011 legislative maps will be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court as well and electoral fairness will be restored to Wisconsin".

Twelve Republican-dominated states are supporting Wisconsin in its defense of the 2011 redistricting plan. "They are trying to accomplish by delay what they couldn't prove in court". There's extensive case law on racial gerrymanders, which has established that racial discrimination in districting is subject to strict scrutiny by courts.

Yet 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 U.S. House of Representatives.

The court said both the First Amendment and the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection prohibit redistricting plans that make it harder for members of a disfavored political party to elect their candidates and that can not be justified on legitimate grounds.

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