The US Supreme Court yesterday agreed to decide whether electoral maps drawn deliberately to favour a particular political party are acceptable under the Constitution in a case that could have huge consequences for American elections in the future.
The justices will take up Wisconsin’s appeal of a lower court ruling last November that state Republican lawmakers violated the Constitution when they created state legislative districts with the partisan aim of hobbling Democrats in legislative races. The case will be one of the biggest heard by the Supreme Court during its term that begins in October.
The lower court ruled that the Republican-led legislature’s redrawing of state legislative districts in 2011 amounted to “an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander”, a term meaning manipulating electoral boundaries for an unfair political advantage.
A panel of three federal judges in Madison ruled 2-1 that the way the Republicans redrew the districts violated the US
Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection under the law and free speech by undercutting the ability of Democratic voters to turn their votes into seats in Wisconsin’s legislature.
The Supreme Court has been willing to invalidate state electoral maps on the grounds of racial discrimination, as it did on May 22 when it found that Republican legislators in North Carolina had drawn two electoral districts to diminish the statewide political clout of black voters.
lThe US Supreme Court yesterday tightened rules on where injury lawsuits may be filed, handing a victory to corporations by undercutting the ability of plaintiffs to bring claims in friendly courts in a case involving litigation over the Bristol-Myers Squibb Co blood-thinning medication Plavix.
The justices, in an 8-1 ruling, threw out a lower court decision allowing hundreds of out-of-state patients who took Plavix to sue the company in California.
State courts cannot hear claims against companies that are not based in the state when the alleged injuries did not occur there, the justices ruled.
lThe Supreme Court yesterday left in place a lower court’s ruling that barred private citizens from suing Ohio for allegedly impeding their ability to vote by requiring ballot forms to be filled out perfectly.
The justices declined to review the ruling that dismissed claims by Ohio’s Democratic Party and homeless rights groups that the state’s “perfect form” law, which invalidates ballots for even minor errors, deprived thousands of people of their right to vote, violating the federal Voting Rights Act. Such suits must be filed by the federal government, not private citizens, that court held.
The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in Cleveland, the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless and the state Democratic Party challenged a pair of 2014 laws.
Those laws required county election boards to reject absentee and provisional ballots unless voters had properly and completely filled out the forms that come with the ballots, including with their name, address, birth date and signature.
Ballots were rejected even if the voter’s identity could be determined despite the errors, the plaintiffs told the justices in legal papers. Some were thrown out for omitting zip codes, using cursive writing instead of print, or writing in the current date instead of a birth date, they said, disenfranchising thousands of voters in recent elections, especially minorities.
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