Democrats use state courts as political ‘tool’ amid 2024 Gerrymandering, experts say

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By Carina

In the dynamic political landscape of the United States, both Democrats and Republicans are increasingly focusing on state courts as strategic tools for partisan gerrymandering, especially as the 2024 election approaches. 

This trend gained momentum following a pivotal 2019 Supreme Court decision in Rucho v. Common Cause, where it was established that political gerrymandering does not infringe upon the U.S. Constitution. 

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Shift to state courts for gerrymandering challenges after Supreme Court ruling

Hans Von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, explained, “In that Supreme Court decision, the court said political gerrymandering does not violate the U.S. Constitution.” 

Can independent commissions create fair voting districts? | Harvard Kennedy  School
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This ruling effectively removed federal courts and the federal Constitution as avenues for contesting redistricting decisions disliked by Democrats.

The response to this decision saw a tactical shift, with lawsuits filed in state courts. 

As von Spakovsky noted, “So, they then switched to state courts. And they started filing claims, like in North Carolina, for example, Pennsylvania, claiming that political gerrymandering that favored – in those cases – the Republican Party violated the state’s constitution.” 

Redistricting battles intensify post-Supreme Court ruling

Traditionally, redistricting has been a prerogative of state legislatures, and von Spakovsky recounts how Democrats installed their plans in Democrat-controlled legislatures during redistricting periods. 

However, the narrative changed as Republicans gained legislative control in various states and started redistricting in favor of the GOP, leading Democrats to counteract through legal challenges.

The 2019 Supreme Court ruling had far-reaching implications, declaring partisan gerrymandering a political question outside the jurisdiction of federal courts. 

Wisconsin at center of redistricting battle following shift to state courts

This decision redirected efforts to state courts for sanctioning gerrymandered voting lines. Wisconsin emerged as a focal point in these redistricting efforts. 

Von Spakvosky emphasized, “Wisconsin is the No. 1 place because of the fact that in the last state election Democrats took control of the state Supreme Court.”

The Wisconsin Supreme Court, which transitioned to a Democrat majority in 2023, recently mandated the drawing of new legislative maps, rejecting maps drawn by Republicans. 

Lawsuits seek to redraw Wisconsin and NY Congressional maps for fairness

This ruling opened doors for further action, with the Elias Law Group filing a lawsuit to revise the state’s congressional maps as well. 

Abha Khanna of the Elias Law Group remarked, “Wisconsin’s current congressional map was drawn according to a ‘least change’ principle that perpetuated and exacerbated the partisan unfairness that has robbed Wisconsin voters of fair congressional districts for over a decade.”

In New York, the state’s highest court delivered a significant victory to Democrats by ordering new congressional maps for the 2024 election cycle. 

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New York’s redistricting saga continues with strategic shifts

This decision is part of a long-standing redistricting saga in New York, dating back to before the 2022 election cycle. 

The Independent Redistricting Commission, established in 2014 to redraw congressional lines, failed to reach a consensus, leading to the Democrat-controlled legislature stepping in.

With the recent developments in New York and Wisconsin, there is a clear indication of a strategic shift in the approach to gerrymandering. 

Unprecedented moves in redistricting as parties leverage court changes

Joe Burns, a New York election attorney, described the situation as “wholly unprecedented,” highlighting the Democrats’ intent to leverage the changes in court composition for redistricting advantages. 

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Republicans have regained control of the state Supreme Court, setting the stage for potential Republican-led redistricting efforts.

State courts key in gerrymandering battle as 2024 approaches

The political maneuvering around gerrymandering continues to evolve, with state courts becoming critical battlegrounds. 

What is partisan gerrymandering? It's allowed in some states : NPR
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As the 2024 election nears, these developments signify a significant shift in the strategies employed by both major parties to influence electoral outcomes through redistricting.

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