High court is urged to leave re­dis­trict­ing to Con­gress

The Buffalo News - - NATIONAL NEWS - By Todd Ruger

WASH­ING­TON – The Supreme Court hears oral ar­gu­ments to­day in two par­ti­san ger­ry­man­der­ing cases that could scram­ble con­gres­sional dis­tricts and change the way states re­draw maps af­ter the 2020 cen­sus, mark­ing the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year the jus­tices will con­sider the is­sue.

In a sign of how much could change if the jus­tices de­cide states can’t use the maps to en­trench an ad­van­tage for their po­lit­i­cal party, the North Car­olina and Mary­land law­mak­ers who ben­e­fited from that process urged the Supreme Court to stay out of it and leave any over­haul of the re­dis­trict­ing process to Con­gress.

The nine Repub­li­can mem­bers of the Tar Heel State’s del­e­ga­tion – elected un­der a con­gres­sional map that state GOP of­fi­cials said was drawn with the in­tent to keep a 10-3 ad­van­tage for their party – filed a brief at the high court ar­gu­ing that state and fed­eral law­mak­ers should rein in just that kind of line draw­ing.

What ap­peared to be a Repub­li­can win last year in the 9th District re­mains un­de­cided be­cause of al­le­ga­tions of elec­tion fraud.

And Demo­cratic Rep. David Trone, who rep­re­sents Mary­land’s 6th District, which state of­fi­cials re­drew and in­creased the Demo­cratic ad­van­tage in the con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion from 6-2 to 7-1, said the po­lit­i­cally prefer­able check on ex­ces­sively par­ti­san con­gres­sional maps is na­tion­wide leg­is­la­tion. He is a co-spon­sor of the House bill to do so.

“That bill, if it passes, would have a po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy that can­not and should not come from this Court, which can only mire it­self in par­ti­san­ship by con­sti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing stan­dards for par­ti­san ger­ry­man­der­ing and then ref­er­ee­ing the in­nu­mer­able chal­lenges that will en­sue,” Trone wrote in a brief to the jus­tices.

That ar­gu­ment could strike a chord with the Supreme Court, and par­tic­u­larly Chief Jus­tice John G. Roberts Jr., who ex­pressed dur­ing oral ar­gu­ments last term his con­cern about the Supreme Court step­ping into the in­her­ently po­lit­i­cal re­dis­trict­ing process to pick win­ners and losers in elec­tions.

But the chal­lengers say the way both states drew maps with the ex­press pol­icy to ben­e­fit one party gives the Supreme Court a way to al­low such law­suits.

The oral ar­gu­ments to­day will give the first in­sights into the jus­tices’ think­ing on the is­sue now.

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