Judging by the press coverage of what happened in the Supreme Court Tuesday, Justice Anthony Kennedy may be ready to cast the decisive fifth vote to put constitutional limits on the practice of political gerrymandering. The questions he asked strongly suggested he’d finally found a case where a legislative majority —Wisconsin Republicans, in this case—had so blatantly rigged district lines to maximize its power that it had effectively deprived opponents of any chance to recapture the Assembly chamber.
For Democrats and liberals across the country, this is cause for celebration. Why? Because if the Court strikes down the Wisconsin map, it also puts the map for congressional districts in several key states in doubt. And, while Democrats have also used their power to draw partisan lines, the net impact of gerrymandering benefits the GOP, because they control the process in key contested states. As Michael Li of the Brennan Center for Justice told me recently, “Republicans enjoy [a net of] 16 to 17 extra seats in Congress under the maps of this decade because of partisan bias … And as it turns out these seats are in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio—battleground states, in other words.”