SCOTUS Set to Rule on Landmark Cases in Census, Gerrymandering

Contrary to expectations, conservative justices have kept people guessing on recent decisions by siding with liberal minority…

SCOTUS Set to Rule on Landmark Cases in Census, Gerrymandering

PHOTO: Fred Schilling, Supreme Court Curator’s Office

(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) As the final day of the Supreme Court’s current session arrived, it had yet to announce the decisions in several landmark cases that will likely impact the political landscape in next year’s presidential election and beyond.

Those cases will determine whether state legislatures are permitted to factor in partisan advantages when drawing the lines of voting districts and whether the national census, which the Commerce Department will soon undertake, may include a question about citizenship.

Although some had anticipated that the court’s addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh might help entrench its conservative bloc, either by design or happenstance justices have kept court-watchers guessing.

While it was expected that Chief Justice John Roberts might fill the former niche of the retired Anthony Kennedy as a moderate swing vote, instead the recent decisions have seen some of the bench’s most conservative members—including justices Clarence Thomas and the libertarian-leaning Neil Gorsuch, siding with the liberals in several cases.

In keeping with past sessions that pushed major cases on matters like Obamacare and gay marriage to the very end, Thursday’s cases are, with little dispute, the most impactful and politically divisive of the current session.

The first issue will be decided in a pair of cases: Lamone v. Benisek, in which Republicans in Maryland challenged the Democratic legislature over a lost seat; and Rucho v. Common Cause, an appeal to a federal court ruling that forced North Carolina‘s GOP-led legislature to redraw its lines making the map more favorable to their opponents.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former Attorney General Eric Holder, has been at the forefront of many of the legal challenges targeting red states, which enabled Democrats to pick up seats last year in places like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

But many were left struggling to read the omens after the court last week dismissed a challenge brought by Virginia’s Republican legislature.

The majority opinion in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune–Hill said that the legislators lacked standing and that only the state’s left-wing attorney general, Mark Herring, had the authority to pose a legal challenge to the lower court’s decision.

While it could possibly signal reason for the Republican plaintiffs to worry in the other two cases, it is equally likely that the court simply sought to clear the docket knowing that the Lamone and Rucho cases would provide a stronger basis for the same outcome.

The court’s decision in Department of Commerce v. New York, whether to allow Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to include a citizenship question on next year’s census will also have implications on the balance of political power.

Democrats, who have pushed for open borders an allowing illegal immigrants to reside in sanctuary states, stand to gain funds and, possibly, congressional seats by importing new residents, regardless of whether they have the ability to legally vote in the state.

On the other hand, they have raised objections to the addition of the censorship question out of the fear that it will cause illegals not to participate in the census, thus costing seats.

Ross has said the purpose of its inclusion was to help ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in its efforts to ensure that all legally voting citizens have equal access.

Challengers have lately sought to urge the justices to send the case back to the lower courts, claiming they have discovered new evidence of Ross’s partisan intentions.

However, the effort seems a likely stall tactic as the Supreme Court initially had agreed to fast-track its hearing because the printing of the census needs to begin soon.

The decisions, regardless of how they break, are likely to draw a firestorm of criticism from opponents.

One more case remaining on the docket, Mitchell v. Wisconsin, may offer the justices a brief respite, as they decide whether blood drawn from an unconscious motorist is a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s search and seizure protections.

The court will begin its session at 10 a.m., according to the SCOTUSblog website. Stay tuned to Liberty Headlines for the latest developments as they come.