WASHINGTON – A divided Supreme Court returned to the topic of partisan gerrymandering on Tuesday and is considering for the second time in two years to take electoral charts to help the party in power ever violate the constitution.
Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, the newest member of the court and the one having the decisive vote, expressed concern over practice.
"Extreme partisan gerrymandering is a real problem for our democracy," he said. "I'm not going to contest it."
"Have we really achieved that, even though it would be a big boost for this court to get involved where the other actors can't do it?" He asked.
Justice Kavanaugh was an exceptionally active participant in Tuesday's arguments and questioned both sides and showed particularly detailed knowledge of the geography and mood districts of Maryland, his homeland. But his record as court of appeal gives little advice on how to get into the problem.
The other righteous seemed largely divided on ideological lines, with the more conservative alerting them to enlightening constitutional boundaries for the partisans riders and the more liberal ones who were ready to try.
There was certainly no consensus on how to design a legal standard that would separate acceptable partisanship for the kind that is unconstitutional. Justice Stephen G. Breyer suggested a numerical test, but it did not seem to get traction with his colleagues.
Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, after hearing a lawyer's suggested standard, said it constituted "I know it when I see it."
Last year's cases from Wisconsin and Maryland raised the possibility that the court might for The first time could decide that some voting cards were so distorted by politics that they crossed a constitutional line. Challengers had fixed their hopes on justit Anthony M. Kennedy, who had expressed ambivalence on the subject, but he and his colleagues did not seem to be able to identify a useful constitutional test. The court instead of sided with the key issues of the two cases.
On Tuesday, almost exactly a year after the last considered Maryland case, the court again heard arguments from Republican voters who said their rights had been violated by a congressional district, as they said, had been drawn to diminish their voting rights .
The court will also hear arguments in another challenge, this one from the North Carolina Democrats who said the state's congressional card gave a 10 to 3 Republican majority despite
A decision that limited partisan gerrymandering could transform American politics, reshaping home cards in several states, often but not always for the benefit of Democrats.
The Supreme Court has ruled that racist riders can violate the Constitution. But it has never knocked down a voting card as a constitutional partisan gerrymander.
The court's decision to hear the new partisan gerrymandering challenges signaled no particular enthusiasm for solving the problem. While the court has almost complete discretion by deciding whether to hear most cases, the congress has given an exception to some disputes over elections. In these cases, the Supreme Court's assessment is only mandatory.
Several justified that lawmakers' behavior in the two cases before them was particularly obvious, and there was no doubt that obtaining a biased advantage was their advertised goal.
The Maryland case, Lamone v. Benisek, no. 18-726, was brought by Republican voters who said that in 2011 democratic state legislators had redrawn a district to reciprocate against citizens who supported their long-standing incumbent Roscoe G. Bartlett, and Republican. The retaliation the applicants said violated the first amendment by diluting their voting rights.
Herr. Bartlett had won his 2010 race with a margin of 28 percentage points. In 2012, he lost to representative John Delaney, a democrat, with a 21-point margin.
Last year, after the Supreme Court returned the case to the US District Court in Maryland, a three panel of judges of that court ruled for the challengers, government officials prevented from holding additional congressional elections using the 2011 cards and ordered them to draw new ones.
The members of the panel did not agree with exactly what legal theories were used, but all three judges of the partisan gerrymandering were detrimental.
"The widespread nature of gerrymandering in modern politics is matched by the almost universal lack of those who want to defend their negative impact on our democracy," said Judge Paul V. Niemeyer with a previous opinion in the case. "In fact, both Democrats and Republicans have cut it off when exercised by their opponents, but they continue to make themselves in their own interest when given the opportunity."
"The problem is cancer," he wrote, "undermining the basic principles of our form of democracy."
The second case, Rucho v. Common Cause, No. 18-422, is an appeal from a decision in August of a three panel of judges of a federal district court in North Carolina. The decision showed that Republican lawmakers who had violated the Constitution by to draw the districts to damage the democratic candidates' choices.
The judges noted that the legislature responsible for drawing the card had not hidden his intentions. "I think choosing Republicans is better than choosing democrats," said the lawyer, representative David Lewis, a Republican. "So I draw this card to help promote what I think is better for the country."
The plan worked. In 2016, the court said that Republican Congress candidates won 53 percent of the state vote. But they won in 10 of the 13 Congress districts, or 77 percent of them.
In 2018, the state vote was evenly distributed, but Democrats again secured only three seats. (After evidence of electoral fraud and death last month of a long-term leader, two seats are open.)