The past few weeks have been very busy for redistricting litigation. Here is the status of some of the current cases:
- The Supreme Court agreed to hear consolidated Voting Rights Act and racial gerrymandering challenges to the state legislative and congressional districts in Texas (Abbott v. Perez), setting aside questions of jurisdiction until after briefing on the merits. The court declined to hear a partisan gerrymandering claim from Texas for lack of jurisdiction (Texas Democratic Party v. Abbott).
- A three-judge district court found the re-drawn North Carolina congressional districts to be an impermissible partisan gerrymander and, in a lengthy 191-page opinion, ordered the map re-drawn, again, by January 24 (Common Cause v. Rucho). This is the first time a court invalidated a congressional map on partisan gerrymandering grounds. North Carolina appealed to the Supreme Court for a stay, and the original three-judge panel has refused to delay its order.
- A three-judge court in Pennsylvania dismissed a partisan gerrymandering claim against Pennsylvania’s congressional districts (Agre v. Wolf).
- The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania heard oral arguments today in a separate challenge to the Pennsylvania map under the state Constitution. A Commonwealth Court judge who reviewed the evidence in the case found that the congressional district lines were not unconstitutionally gerrymandered, but Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court leans heavily Democratic.
The consolidated Texas cases now join two partisan gerrymandering claims already pending before the Supreme Court this term, Gill v. Whitford out of Wisconsin (argued in October) and Benisek v. Lamone out of Maryland (oral argument date not scheduled yet). And there are also pending redistricting cases in Georgia, Michigan, and Virginia.
With all of this pending litigation, the rules governing redistricting are far from settled. The maps currently being litigated are ones drawn after the 2010 census, over 7 years old at this point. And in some cases, such as North Carolina’s congressional districts, the map currently being litigated is one that was re-drawn after the last round of post-2010 litigation.
As we look forward to the 2020 census and the next round of redistricting, Democrats are making redistricting strategy and litigation, as well as winning majorities in state legislatures, a priority, including attracting the focus of Barack Obama and Eric Holder. Republicans are just beginning to counter the Democrats’ efforts. But at this rate, legislatures might not even know what the governing rules are when it is time to draw the new maps in 2021, and even if the rules are set by 2021, Democrats have shown how willing they are to change the rules after the fact through litigation.Stay tuned to this blog and RNLA’s Twitter feed for updates on these cases.