by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The justices will gather Wednesday to hear oral arguments in a challenge to the boundaries drawn by Maryland Democrats in 2011 for the state’s 6th Congressional District, which the plaintiffs in the case argued was a partisan gerrymander that violated their First Amendment rights.
The approaching argument marks the second time this term the Supreme Court will hear a case that deals with partisan gerrymandering, the practice of redrawing district boundaries in a manner that benefits one political party over another.
In October, the justices considered a challenge to the legislative map drawn by Wisconsin Republican state lawmakers in 2011.
Last year’s oral argument was the first time since 2004 the high court had mulled a partisan gerrymandering case. But the Supreme Court announced in December it would take up the Maryland case that raises the question of whether a voting map provided one political party with such an advantage that it infringed upon the constitutional rights of voters. …
… The court will consider Wednesday whether the voters’ First Amendment retaliation challenge should proceed, as well as whether a three-judge district court, which denied a request from the plaintiffs to block the map from being used, erred when it said the plaintiffs didn’t show they were likely to succeed on the merits of the case.
The plaintiffs, Republican voters, say the First Amendment asks if the state “has imposed a real and practical burden” … “in retaliation for past political support for the opposition party.”
Court watchers are expecting the arguments to provide a window into the justices’ thinking on how the court should resolve partisan gerrymandering disputes, as the Supreme Court decided to hear the case two months after considering the Wisconsin challenge.