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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Controversy concerning electoral districts

Por Feco

The United States tackles the debated redrawing of electoral districts in a key year. Whatever the Supreme decides may revolutionize the political system. Most redrawings of electoral districts have affected Democratic politicians in recent years because Republicans control most governments and regional congresses, which allows them to alter maps. In the last year and a half, federal courts have knocked down Republican plans to modify districts in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

The sophisticated redrawing of electoral districts has become a controversial art among US policymakers. Since this week, it has led to a dilemma in the Supreme Court: keep dodging the issue or address it for the first time to sit on the chair. In the more than 200 years of United States history, the highest judicial authority has considered a political issue and not legal changes in electoral maps that clearly benefit a party and question the cleanliness of democracy.

Now, however, the accumulation of litigation approaches the Supreme Court to establish a doctrine on whether the distortion of districts violates the Constitution, which could revolutionize the electoral process and influence the contested legislative elections in November. Maryland is a paradigmatic case of what in the United States is known as gerrymandering: the technique of changing the boundaries of electoral maps to group segments of loyal voters in a way that facilitates the majority of one party against the other.

Just an example. In 2010, a Republican candidate won a 28-point lead in the sixth district of Maryland to the House of Representatives. But in 2012, he lost it by 21 points against his Democratic rival. In 2011, the Democratic Party, which controlled the state government, decided to redraw the district, including neighborhoods near Washington that are progressive feudos, which granted that wide advantage a year later. The nine members of the Supreme Court heard that case on Wednesday. Last October they analyzed a similar one from Wisconsin.

Their verdict is not expected until June and it is an unknown which will be given to that the litigation, which revolves around a delicate conflict between politics, law and demography in a country that is usually allergic to limiting individual freedom. The deliberation process is closely followed and the parties are in suspense. Some of the members of the court have argued in the past not to interfere in what they consider a difficult-to-fix political dispute. Others have considered that the redrawing of electoral maps is so flagrant that it can violate the freedom of expression protected by the Constitution. Those doubts surfaced again on Wednesday.

Everything points to that, as in other disputes, who has the key to tip the scales to one side or the other is Judge Anthony Kennedy. In 2004, he advocated assessing the constitutionality of an electoral map when there was a "functional standard" that determined what the red line would be. Many wonder if now that time has come. What do you think?