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Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

The Wisconsin Democrats who brought the Gill vs. Whitford gerrymandering case to the Supreme Court are the latest example of Dems working at the local level in the hopes of helping the party at every level.

Why it matters: Both parties have taken advantage of drawing districts in their favor, but this case has the potential to fundamentally change how voting maps reflect representative democracy and, ultimately, how each party can gain control of state legislatures or House delegations in the future.

Gerrymandering dates back to the 19th century, but the Supreme Court has never ruled a partisan gerrymander unconstitutional. The court remained divided on the case hearing held today, with Justice Kennedy only asking questions of the lawyers defending the map and conservative Justice Samuel Alito saying, "Gerrymandering is distasteful ... but if we're going to impose a standard on the courts it's going to have to be manageable."

The Gill v. Whitford case started in 2010 after Republicans gained control of Wisconsin's government for the first time in more than two decades. At the beginning of a redistricting cycle local lawmakers drew a State Assembly map that helped Republicans secure legislative majorities. Republicans won 49% of the vote for State Assembly candidates in 2012 after the redistricting, but picked up 60 of the Assembly's 99 seats.

Battle lines

Democrats: The partisan fight over gerrymandering is another way Dems are trying to regain control of districts they've lost to Republicans over the years.

  • David Cohen, co-founder of Forward Majority, said, "Forward Majority is working to unrig the map by investing in the state races that ... right wing special interests have poured millions of dollars into year after year as part of a concerted effort to gerrymander maps across the country."
  • Former Attorney General Eric Holder is leading a group that is accusing Georgia of hurting black constituents' voting power with redrawn districts, per NYT. (Note: Racial gerrymandering and partisan gerrymandering are different.)
  • Their recent efforts: Just last week, the national progressive advocacy group Priorities USA quietly worked with the Florida Democratic Party to help a Democrat win a state Senate seat previously held by a Republican.
  • Democratic groups like Forward Majority are working to win back some of the 1,000 state legislature seats Dems lost to Republicans, particularly ahead of the next round of redistricting in 2021.

Republicans: New GOP groups are popping up to counter Dems' organized efforts. And some argue Dems have diminished their voting power because they've concentrated themselves into cities.

  • The National Republican Redistricting Trust (NRRT), which launched last Thursday, will use data and "serve as a central resource" for GOP redistricting efforts.
  • Jason Torchinsky, a senior adviser for the group, argued Democrats are looking to blame their party's loss on gerrymandering because of the "inefficient way their voters are spread around the country in an attempt to maximize votes."
  • "This lawsuit in Wisconsin is nothing more than Democrats being unable to accept that in recent years Republicans have won," said David Avella, chairman of GOPAC, an organization that recruits and trains Republican candidates. "Should former Attorney General Holder and the Democrats prevail, Republicans living in New York, Illinois, Maryland and the handful of states where Democrats draw legislative boundaries should immediately seek the same remedy."

What's next: Even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Wisconsin Dems, it'll likely still be many years and several more court cases before it's decided what's fair in drawing districts.

Go deeper

Kamala Harris resigns from Senate seat ahead of inauguration

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Photo: Mason Trinca/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris submitted her resignation from her seat in the U.S. Senate on Monday, two days before she will be sworn into her new role.

What's next: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to serve out the rest of Harris' term, which ends in 2022.

3 hours ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.

Biden picks Warren allies to lead SEC, CFPB

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Why it matters: Both picks are progressive allies of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and viewed as likely to take aggressive steps to regulate big business.