A Flurry of Courts Have Ruled on Election Maps. Here’s What They’ve Said

From today’s New York Times:

Judges in a number of states have recently thrown out election maps, saying that they have been gerrymandered to the point of being unconstitutional, effectively dooming one party to permanent underrepresentation.

The decisions are certain to have drawn the Supreme Court’s interest as it mulls a resolution to the question of extreme partisan gerrymanders. The justices are expected to decide this spring whether the practice violates the Constitution, and if so, how to determine whether an electoral map is fairly drawn.

Here are the basics of the major contested cases.

Wisconsin: State Assembly districts

How many seats does each party hold?

In the most recent general election, 52 percent of the votes were cast for Republican Assembly candidates, who won almost two-thirds of the seats — 64 out of 99. Democrats received 46 percent of the vote and won 35 seats.

What’s happened so far?

In November 2016, a panel of three judges ruled that the map was unconstitutionally drawn to favor Republicans, the first time a partisan gerrymander was struck down in federal court. The ruling was notable, according to experts, because it provided a clear mathematical formula to measure how partisan a district map is.

The decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which took the case(known as Gill v. Whitford) and heard arguments in October 2017.

What’s next?

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in the spring, probably setting the course for the other cases in federal court as well.

North Carolina: Congressional districts

How many seats does each party hold?

In 2016, Republican candidates received 53 percent of the votes cast, and won 10 of the state’s 13 seats; Democrats received 47 percent of the votes and won 3 seats.

What’s happened so far?

The map was thrown out and ordered redrawn by a panel of three federal judges on Jan. 9, who said that Republicans had drawn it most recently in 2016 in an attempt to gain a political advantage. The

Supreme Court temporarily blocked the lower court’s order to redraw the map nine days later.

What’s next?

It’s unclear. The Supreme Court has not said whether it will schedule arguments in the case, known as Rucho v. Common Cause. The court may choose instead to let whatever ruling it issues in another gerrymandering case stand as its final word on the matter. Because of the temporary block, experts say the current North Carolina map will probably remain in effect for the midterm elections this fall.

Read the complete article here.

In win for #VotingRights, Federal Court Rules NC Electoral Map Unconstitutional

From the New York Times:

A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map on Tuesday, condemning it as unconstitutional because Republicans had drawn the map seeking a political advantage.

The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because of a partisan gerrymander, and it instantly endangered Republican seats in the coming elections.

Judge James A. Wynn Jr., in a biting 191-page opinion, said that Republicans in North Carolina’s Legislature had been “motivated by invidious partisan intent” as they carried out their obligation in 2016 to divide the state into 13 congressional districts, 10 of which are held by Republicans. The result, Judge Wynn wrote, violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

The ruling and its chief demand — that the Republican-dominated Legislature create a new landscape of congressional districts by Jan. 24 — infused new turmoil into the political chaos that has in recent years enveloped North Carolina. President Trump carried North Carolina in 2016, but the state elected a Democrat as its governor on the same day and in 2008 supported President Barack Obama.

The unusually blunt decision by the panel could lend momentum to two other challenges on gerrymandering that are already before the Supreme Court — and that the North Carolina case could join if Republicans make good on their vow to appeal Tuesday’s ruling.

In October, the court heard an appeal of another three-judge panel’s ruling that Republicans had unconstitutionally gerrymandered Wisconsin’s State Assembly in an attempt to relegate Democrats to a permanent minority. In the second case, the justices will hear arguments by Maryland Republicans that the Democratic-controlled Legislature redrew House districts to flip a Republican-held seat to Democratic control.

Read the complete article here.

Obama to introduce “American Jobs Act”

In a speech to a joint session of Congress tonight President Obama is expected to unveil a new White House economic strategy to bolster employment. With unemployment at 9.1 percent, and figures for jobless claims rising according to today’s report from the Department of Labor, the President is switching emphasis from large public stimulus packages to job creation.

Republican lawmakers are not interested in job creation but in profit maximization. Predictably, some are already calling Obama’s announced “American Jobs Act” an example of the same tired Democratic ideas that have failed to stimulate the economy in the past. No word yet on whether Republican ideas about profit maximization and deregulation lead to anything but risky and unstable economic climates like the one that brought about the more recent financial collapse. When it comes to economics, Republicans really have no good ideas.

Democratic lawmakers are also not much interested in job creation. If they were, Americans would have labor laws that promoted job security and stability, fair wages, and standard benefits such as health care insurance. Of course, Democrats say they are for job creation, but when they say this while passing legislation at the same time that allows corporations to transfer profits and jobs out of the country, it’s hard to believe their commitment to American workers is anything but political pandering to people who don’t know any better.

The fact is a small but powerful minority of Americans has become more wealthy in the last two decades since the global internet economy emerged, largely because the corporations they own and run have paired wages, trimmed benefits, hemmed unions, outsourced jobs, and generally practiced an economics of greed. In order to turn this situation around the President cannot be expected to provide job security for every American without help from Congress. The problem is, again, that Congress is effectively bought and sold by the wealthy political elite that governs economic policy in this country. Without a massive congressional turnover, which is unlikely to happened given the influence and power of money in electoral politics, legislation for protecting and promoting the interests of American workers (that is, every American who has, wants, or needs a job) will be anemic and unsuitable for returning Americans to work at jobs that pay well with good benefits

Everyone keeps saying those days are over. If they are over, then so is the growth and sustainability of the American economy. Without workers who get paid well to buy things we produce and other countries import, we will be a nation of debtors with permanent status anxiety. ::KPS::