The Supreme Court on Friday set aside two lower court rulings tossing out congressional maps in Michigan and Ohio, putting the process of redrawing district lines on hold while it prepares to rule on whether or not partisan gerrymandering is constitutional.
Republicans in both Midwestern states had appealed lower-court rulings that their congressional maps had been drawn so egregiously to favor the GOP that they violated the constitutional rights of voters. The Supreme Court already heard arguments in partisan gerrymandering cases from Maryland and North Carolina — and the high court is expected to render a decision next month that could decide what happens in Michigan and Ohio as well.
In both Michigan and Ohio, Republicans drew voting maps after the 2010 census and largely achieved their goal of locking in the gains they had made in the 2010 elections. But the lower courts had ruled that they had violated the 1st and 14th Amendment rights of voters by drawing districts to achieve certain political outcomes.
Despite its history as a swing state, Republicans currently hold 13 of the 18 congressional seats in Ohio. In Michigan, Democrats now hold seven of the state’s 14 seats, after flipping two Republican-held seats in the 2018 midterm elections.
The twin orders on Friday afternoon included no dissents, though a majority is required for the justices to grant a stay of a lower-court ruling. GOP-led legislatures in both states had anticipated the Supreme Court action and had made few moves toward redrawing their congressional maps thus far.
The high court heard partisan gerrymandering cases in its previous term as well, in 2017 and 2018. But a year ago, the court issued a limited ruling that largely left the issue undecided and opened the door for lower courts to enforce limits on partisan gerrymandering. Since then, however, Justice Anthony Kennedy retired and was replaced by Brett Kavanaugh, a conservative who doesn’t have a record on the issue thus far.
By Steven Shepard | Politico