SCOTUS to hear NC & MD gerrymandering cases

The Supreme Court added partisan gerrymandering cases in North Carolina and Maryland to its docket on Friday. The justices will determine whether electoral maps drawn by politics may cross a constitutional line.

Why it matters: The high court has never ruled a gerrymandered election map as unconstitutional. A ruling against the practice of lawmakers drawing maps to unduly favor one political party would reshape American politics.

Details: The decision to hear an appeal by North Carolina Republicans comes after a panel of federal judges in August — for the second time last year — struck down the state’s congressional map as unconstitutional. The Republican-controlled legislature had drawn it to maximize the party’s electoral advantage.

  • The state used the same map in the 2018 midterms, which ceded Republicans at least 9 of the 13 U.S. House seats.

In the Maryland case, state Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) challenged a November court ruling that asked lawmakers to redraw the 6th congressional district map before the 2020 election.

  • A federal court panel ruled that Democratic-controlled state legislature intentionally designed the district in 2011 to their benefit by including the heavily Democratic Montgomery County, costing a Republican incumbent his seat.

The Supreme Court has set arguments for both cases in March. A decision may come by June, and it raises the possibility of a court-ordered redrawing of new districts before the 2020 elections.

Election reformers are hoping that the Supreme Court will issue a landmark ruling against excessive partisan gerrymandering before the next round of redistricting begins after the 2020 census.

WhBut observers and some election law experts say Chief Justice John Roberts is the most likely conservative justice to cast a deciding vote against partisan gerrymandering.