Supreme Court decision could lead to wine delivery in Maryland

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, said that federal courts have no authority to decide whether partisan gerrymandering goes too far.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, saying the administration's reasoning for adding the question "appeared to be contrived".

The cases, Benisek v. Lamone and Rucho v. Common Cause, dealt with the mapping of congressional districts in Maryland and North Carolina, respectively, in ways that blatantly favored one party over another.

The comment came minutes after the chief justice wrote the key decision Thursday that blocked the Trump administration from asking about citizenship on the 2020 census.

Republicans are now the more frequent beneficiaries of gerrymanders because their electoral success in 2010 let them draw numerous current maps.

"The provision at issue here expressly discriminates against nonresidents and has at best a highly attenuated relationship to public health or safety", he said.

Doing so would establish an alarming precedent for the court, already criticized for having lost its objectivity as politically motivated forces continue to pressure it to be the final authority on divisive issues-including elections themselves.

The Supreme Court denies responsibility for policing partisan gerrymandering, leaving the states to handle it themselves. But through it all, one thing has always held true: "States may impose residency requirements on those who seek to sell alcohol within their borders to ensure that retailers comply with local laws and norms".

As Republican David Lewis, the chairman of the state legislature's redistricting committee, put it, "I propose we draw the maps to give an advantage to 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats, because I do not believe it is possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and 2 Democrats". Some thought an oddly shaped district looked a salamander.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the approach makes sense: "Want to know what a rule means?" The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. The same month he voted with the conservative majority to allow a Muslim prison inmate in Alabama to be executed without an imam present in the execution chamber over the dissent of the four liberals.

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Roberts said he believes this ruling does not mean there can not be limits on partisan gerrymandering. By winning governor's races, Democrats have gained a seat at the redistricting table in three big states the GOP controlled back then: Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Plaintiffs in the case had argued that the bureau's decision violates the Administration Procedure Act, which requires that rules implemented by the federal government not be "arbitrary and capricious". In its ruling (pdf), Roberts, who authored the majority opinion, said the administration's rationale for adding the question was insufficient and described it as "more of a distraction" than an explanation.

The Supreme Court a year ago failed to issue definitive rulings on partisan gerrymandering in two cases - this same one from Maryland and another involving a Republican-drawn electoral map in Wisconsin.

To illustrate his point, Oliver pointed to the voting district lines in Pennsylvania and OH, which were drawn in such a way as to give Republicans an edge in ostensibly Democratic districts.

Republicans were open about their intent. They say the intention was to intimidate minority households from responding in order to reduce Democratic Party representation. Their plan succeeded, and a lower court concluded that the district violated the Constitution.

"The removal of the citizenship question from the census form will lift the culture of fear that might have prevented families from filling out the census and remove an obstacle towards an accurate count", Chen said.

What happens next was not immediately clear, because the department had said it must know by the summer whether the question can be added.

Freda Levenson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in OH, said taking gerrymandering out of the court system "leaves it in the hands of those who will continue to abuse their awesome power whenever they can to defeat the will of the voters". Some of those states let politicians serve on the commissions, limiting their independence.

While only USA citizens can vote, non-citizens comprise an estimated 7 percent of the population.

  • Sonia Alvarado