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Pa. gerrymandering lawsuit may be too late for 2018 elections

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Jonathan Ernst  Reuters
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch the conservative picked for the post by President Donald Trump

"We'll have to decide in every case whether the Democrats win or the Republicans win", Roberts said, a scenario that he said would damage the court's credibility. The court heard arguments Tuesday in a redistricting case from Wisconsin, where Democrats say Republicans created districts so lopsided that they violated voters' constitutional rights.

"As this case illustrates, it's now possible even in a 50/50 state like Wisconsin to draw a district map that is so reliably and extremely biased that it effectively decides in advance who's going to control the legislative body for the entire decade..." The court has a 5-4 conservative majority.

It is instructive that the phrase "partisan gerrymandering" - the drawing of district lines by one party to disadvantage the other - is a redundancy. Smith was betting that Kennedy would be more likely to strike down the Wisconsin gerrymander on free-speech grounds, rather than on an equal-protection basis.

Legislative districts in the 50 USA states, redrawn every decade after the national census to reflect population changes, represent the individual components of representative democracy. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals then found in favor of Murphy, leading the case to the Supreme Court.

In recent years, as gerrymandering has garnered more attention from the public and the news media, social scientists have begun to analyze partisan redistricting with more scrutiny. Samuel Alito also sneered, suggesting that a single paper by a "young researcher" hardly provides an adequate basis for the justices to meddle in elections across the country.

New maps will be drawn up following the 2020 census. With the arrival of Justice Neil Gorsuch, the court is now at full strength with nine members.

"What's this court supposed to do", he asked - "a pinch of this, a pinch of that?" "A pinch of this, a pinch of that?" he asked. Counsel for the United States further asserted that the NLRB overstepped the boundaries of its authority by trying to characterize these procedures as incontrovertible, substantive rights under the NLRA.

The challengers received some muscular support.

In the lawsuit, the attorneys argue that the Republican Party used sophisticated data analysis software to gerrymander the state's congressional districts more dramatically than ever before, said Daniel Jacobson, an attorney with Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer.

It may seem gerrymandering can give a party control of the legislature, but what sort of results does that guarantee?

By one such tool known as the "efficiency gap," which basically tries to measure competitiveness in districts by comparing single district election margins throughout the state, Pennsylvania's congressional seats are said to be the most-gerrymandered in the nation.

The last time the Supreme Court ruled on a case of this kind was in 2004 when it concluded that courts shouldn't be involved in gerrymandering cases.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice D Y Chandrachud took a dim view of a former Supreme Court Bar Association President's remarks in a television interview that some Supreme Court Judges were "pro-government". "And that is going to cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this Court in the eyes of the country".

Some liberal justices wondered what would happen to voters if partisan gerrymandering made election results preordained. It could have big impacts on who you vote for moving forward. "Let them come and sit in the court to see in how many cases we haul up the government in favour of citizens", Justice Chandrachud said. At the same time, Kennedy has been a reliable vote in favor of the rights of political dissenters, such as flag-burners. The party's majority has since expanded. Voting against outlawing gerrymandering in Davis or Vieth, where evidence was less compelling and the standards for resolving gerrymandering were less obvious, could be ascribed to caution on the part of the justices.

Religious Discrimination - in two cases that will determine whether President Trump's Muslim travel and refugee ban exceeds his power under federal immigration laws and violates the First Amendment (note that the case is now off the argument calendar while the parties hash out how Trump's newest policy affects the case).

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