The NCSL Blog

02

By Wendy Underhill

vote buttonsIt would be hyperbole to say that redistricting news is pouring forth from every court in the land. And yet, there’s been a huge amount of news lately from both state and federal courts.

I made a cheat sheet for my own purposes to follow redistricting cases and the Supreme Court. Here it is:

 

State

Case Name

Maps

Supreme Court Action

Maryland

Benisek v. Lamone

Congressional

Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 28, 2018

North Carolina

Rucho v. Common Cause

Congressional

Supreme Court on January 18, 2018 stayed a district court’s decision to impose new maps drawn by a special master

North Carolina

North Carolina v. Covington

Legislative

New maps were drawn by a court-ordered special master in December 2017; Supreme Court has stayed implementation of part of the new plan.

Texas

Abbott v. Perez

Congressional and Legislative cases, consolidated

Supreme Court will hear oral arguments April 24, 2018

Virginia

Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections

Legislative

Supreme Court sent the case back to lower court March 1, 2017; new trial in lower court has concluded; awaiting an opinion

Wisconsin

Gill v. Whitford

Legislative

Supreme Court heard oral arguments October 3, 2017; decision likely by June 30

 

Not included on my list the case that has garnered the most attention recently: League of Women Voters of Pa. v Pennsylvania. That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court has played only a peripheral role in this case, which has been argued under the state constitution.

The case itself challenged congressional district lines drawn in 2011 by the legislature, claiming they were drawn with more than permissible partisan considerations, and by so doing they violated the state constitution. The case went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and in January, that court sided with the plaintiffs and instructed the legislature to draw new lines.

The legislative defendants quickly asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay of the court’s ruling based on the argument that the state supreme court has no authority to engage in redistricting (it’s a duty given to the legislature). Justice Samuel Alito, who is assigned to hear emergency actions addressed to the Supreme Court from Pennsylvania, denied the request for a stay, without referring it to the whole Court. 

The legislature did not draw new maps by the deadline set by the state supreme court, at which point the court drew maps.

Eight members of Congress and two state senators then filed a new suit in federal district court, Corman v. Torres, seeking to prevent implementation of the new map on the ground that the state supreme does not have authority to redistrict.  

At the same time, the legislative defendants asked Alito to stay imposition of the state supreme court’s new map. Alito has asked for responses to the new request by Monday.

What does this all mean? It means that politicians in several states are white-knuckling it now, waiting to learn what districts in which they will be able to run. Worth noting: Texas has the first state primary in the nation, on March 6. Pennsylvania’s is May 15; Maryland’s is June 26; and Wisconsin’s is August 14. Filing dates, of course, come beforehand.

For more on all these cases and more, see NCSL’s Redistricting Case Summaries: 2010 – Present.

Wendy Underhill is NCSL’s director for elections and redistricting. She thanks Peter Wattson for his help on this blog post.

Email Wendy.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.