9-0: SCOTUS Passes on Wisconsin Gerrymandering Case

By Emilie Cochran | June 19, 2018 | 5:43am EDT
(Photo: U.S. Supreme Court)

(CNSNews.com) - In a 9-0 ruling issued on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a Wisconsin gerrymandering case, Gill v. Whitford, back to a lower court, because the plaintiffs – a group of Wisconsin Democrats -- failed to prove they lived in districts that were affected by the gerrymandering.

The opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts, said the court lacked the power to resolve their claims since the plaintiffs alleged that they had a personal stake in the case, but they did not provide the requisite proof.

The case was brought in July 2015 by Wisconsin Democrats who argued that the state Assembly maps, which were drawn in 2010 by a Republican legislature and signed by a Republican governor, unfairly gave the advantage to Republicans.

The Democrats said they suffered from partisan gerrymandering, “which works through ‘packing’ and ‘cracking’ voters of one party to disadvantage those voters.” They also claimed their vote had been “diluted.”

They argued that the legislature had infringed their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

However, wrote Roberts, “a plaintiff seeking relief in federal court must first demonstrate that he has standing to do so, including that he has ‘a personal stake in the outcome’…distinct from a ‘generally available grievance about government.’

In this case, the plaintiffs argued statewide injury, rather than injury in their own individual districts, which goes against previous cases, particularly Baker v. Carr, which said voters challenging gerrymandering need to demonstrate “disadvantage to themselves as individuals.”

In Gill, the remedy to the individual voter’s harm does not necessarily require a complete restructuring of all of Wisconsin’s districts -- therefore, it is not a statewide issue, the court found.

“It is a case about group political interests, not individual legal rights,” the opinion said. “But this Court is not responsible for vindicating generalized partisan preferences. The court’s constitutionally prescribed role is to vindicate the individual rights of the people appearing before it.”

The Court said the case should be remanded to a lower court so the plaintiffs can prove “concrete and particularized injuries using evidence—unlike the bulk of the evidence presented thus far—that would tend to demonstrate a burden on their individual votes.”

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