Seth McKee is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science who specializes in political parties and redistricting.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced today (June 19) that it will hear a gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin, which could affect how district lines are set nationwide.
Challengers in the Wisconsin case say the district lines were drawn unconstitutionally to benefit Republicans. The Supreme Court has said previously it is illegal to draw district lines to substantially benefit one political party over another, but such vague language has left room for debate on how much one party must benefit before its actions are ruled illegal.
Seth McKee is an associate professor in the Texas Tech University Department of Political Science who specializes in political parties and redistricting. He can speak about the potential impact of a possible Supreme Court ruling on redistricting rules nationwide.
- This could be a historic ruling if, in fact, the Supreme Court finally invokes a standard for declaring a partisan gerrymander unconstitutional, a move the Court has yet to take despite declaring its authority to adjudicate partisan gerrymandering in the 1986 Indiana case of Davis v. Bandemer.
- If the Court took the very unlikely but possible step of setting a standard to overturn partisan gerrymanders, then the implications and ramifications would be far reaching since numerous states currently have partisan gerrymanders similar to Wisconsin's.
- Overturning these districting plans would create considerable instability as state legislators in various states – and most likely lower courts, too – would be charged with taking the step of drafting new plans, and these plans would have ripple effects as would-be and actual candidates reassess their campaign strategies under altered district boundaries.
- Voters will be caught in the middle, with many of them being faced with potentially new and different representation because of changes to the districts they currently live in.
- Finally, there is no question that greatly altering district boundaries makes elections more competitive, and since Republicans have been the primary benefactors of the current wave of partisan gerrymanders, clearly Democrats will disproportionally benefit from redistricting of this kind.