Congress

Supreme Court requests response from Ohio and Michigan gerrymander challengers

Justices give challengers a week to respond to requests from GOP state officials to stop court-ordered redrawing of district lines

Anti-gerrymandering activists gather on the steps of the Supreme Court in March 2018 as the justices prepare to hear a case challenging Maryland’s congressional map. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday gave the challengers of congressional maps in Ohio and Michigan until May 20 to respond to requests from state officials to stop court-ordered redrawing of district lines. Lower courts found the maps were partisan gerrymanders, an issue the high court is now considering in two other cases.

Republican lawmakers and officials in both states had argued that they did not have enough time to comply with recent federal court mandates to redraw their districts by June 14 in Ohio and Aug. 1 in Michigan.

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“The court’s order is on the brink of throwing Michigan’s political system into unnecessary chaos,” Gary P. Gordon, counsel for the Michigan Senate, wrote in an affidavit submitted Friday.

New maps, if they were prepared, might have to be drawn again because the Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming weeks about similar cases in Maryland and North Carolina. It heard oral arguments in those cases in March and a ruling is expected before the court’s term ends in June.

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The Michigan and Ohio cases are the latest to challenge to the way lawmakers from both parties have used sophisticated computer models to set district boundaries that consolidate and preserve control of congressional and legislative seats by the party with the power to draw the lines.

Federal court panels found that lines in both Michigan and Ohio were drawn to help Republicans win more seats, in part by concentrating voters who vote Democratic into fewer districts. 

The Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in on whether courts should strike down partisan gerrymanders or leave the process to politicians.

ICYMI: The Many Ways to Draw a Gerrymander

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