Supreme Court wipes out ruling on Michigan partisan gerrymander

The court had already declared in June that such challenges involve an essentially political issue, beyond the authority of federal courts to resolve.

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By Pete Williams

The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a challenge to maps drawn by Republicans for state legislative and congressional district boundaries in Michigan.

The decision, which allows the GOP districts to stand, was expected because the court declared in June that such challenges involve an issue that is essentially political, beyond the authority of federal courts to resolve on legal grounds.

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Monday's ruling came in a lawsuit filed after Republicans redrew the political boundary lines after the 2010 census. Democrats claimed that the new plan would perpetuate Republican control by preventing Democrats from forming majorities.

In April, a panel of three federal judges declared the maps to be an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and ordered the Legislature to come up with a new plan for nine congressional and 25 state legislative districts. It also said the state must hold a special election for state senators in 2020.

"Evidence points to only one conclusion: partisan considerations played a central role in every aspect of the redistricting process," the court said.

But in June, ruling on cases from North Carolina and Maryland, the Supreme Court said federal courts could not consider partisan gerrymander claims because they present "political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts."

In response to a request from Michigan, the justices put the three-judge panel's ruling on hold. Monday's ruling wiped it off the books.

After the 2020 census, the job of drawing new political maps will be in the hands of a bipartisan commission, a system approved by voters in a statewide referendum in 2018.

While the Supreme Court's ruling in June shut the door to federal lawsuits over partisan gerrymandering, the claims can still be heard by state courts.