On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters appeared to have narrowly elected a strident conservative judge to replace a retiring progressive justice on Wisconsin's Supreme Court, although the Republican-backed candidate's 6,000-vote lead is poised to go to a recount. This race, which would extend the GOP's majority to a five-to-two advantage, should serve as a wake up call for Democrats at both the state and federal, because state supreme courts are a critical battleground for stopping Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression when other options are unavailable.
Throughout Tuesday’s oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, Justice Anthony Kennedy and the Supreme Court’s left-leaning justices grilled Wisconsin’s attorneys with tough questions that suggest a majority of the court is prepared to impose constitutional limits on political redistricting. The highlight of the hour came when Justice Sonia Sotomayor posed a very simple inquiry that cut to the core of the case: “Could you tell me what the value is to democracy from political gerrymandering? How does that help our system of government?”
Democratic voters in Wisconsin say gerrymandering the voting districts has given Republicans too much power and violate the Constitution.
This, in the words of Joe Biden, is a big fucking deal. The Supreme Court’s vote on marriage equality and its refusal to gut health-care reform justly got the banner headlines over the last few days. But a less-publicized case on Arizona’s independent redistricting commission had those of us fighting for election reform holding our breath in the march toward the last day of decisions.
Dear Dahlia, Walter, Judge Posner, Kenji, and Marty, Justice Antonin Scalia may have been the worst-behaved justice in the courtroom this morning, Dahlia—but the chief was the most obnoxious on paper. The Arizona redistricting case brought out the worst in Chief Justice John Roberts, the petty jibes and scornful mockery that this usually staid justice strives to avoid.
Advocates for redistricting reform scored a crucial victory today when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission. Passed by the voters in 2000 in an effort to remove legislators' bias from the redistricting process, the commission was imperiled by the GOP's rabid desire to abolish it so that they could gerrymander the state's congressional districts to give themselves a partisan advantage.
This week, Ohio's legislature approved a proposal that would hand control of its statehouse redistricting process to a new bipartisan commission. Now, the proposal needs approval from the state's voters before it goes into effect. The proposed seven-member redistricting commission isn't nonpartisan — it will include the governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and two legislators from each party and chamber. But importantly, if fewer than two minority party members approve the new map, it will only go into effect for four years, not ten.
In the upcoming House of Representatives election, nobody—not the pollsters, not the pundits—can be certain who will win the nationwide popular vote, yet Republicans appear likely to gain four to ten seats. Such a gain would bring their caucus close to the size it was after the 2010 election, when they won the popular vote by nearly seven percentage points. This discrepancy, on its face, is troubling, and it raises an obvious question: How can such an anemic popular vote yield such a bumper crop of representation?
In the US, every state elects a certain number of people to the House of Representatives — a number that's based on the Census count of the state's population. Pennsylvania, for instance, elects 18 House members. So Pennsylvania has to be divided into 18 congressional districts with roughly equal populations. In most US states, this process is controlled by the majority party in the state legislature.
It's been recently claimed (for instance, at RealClearPolitics and The New Republic) that the GOP is at little risk of losing its majority in the House. New surveys suggest that thanks to the shutdown and debt ceiling battle, the situation has changed.
No one disputes Republicans used the once-a-decade redistricting process to lock in their House majority — almost certainly through 2014 and possibly until the next round of line-drawing in 2020. But the party could pay a steep price for that dominance.