The Supreme Court added another thorny political case to its docket next term, agreeing Monday to rule on whether Wisconsin’s legislative districts are so politically loaded that they violate the Constitution.
The justices may have given an early sense for which way they’re leaning, issuing an order halting a lower court’s ruling that had demanded Wisconsin redraw its maps by November.
While courts have overturned legislative district maps based on racial discrimination, judges have shied away from striking down districts drawn to maximize a party’s political power.
The new case out of Wisconsin will test that.
“The Supreme Court now has an opportunity to rein in partisan manipulation of the elections process, which has thwarted the will of the voters in numerous states,” said Dale Ho, director of the voting rights project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
After the 2010 census produced new population estimates the GOP-controlled state assembly redrew the district lines. The resulting map maximized Republicans’ political power by carving up districts so Democrats were packed into some lopsided districts, giving the GOP a better chance at winning other competitive seats.
A three-judge panel ruled the map illegal and ordered a new one drawn by later this year.
In a 5-4 order Monday, though, the Supreme Court halted that schedule. The court’s Democratic-appointed justices dissented.
The court did say it will take up the case in the next term, which begins in October.