Mar 28, 2018

SCOTUS hears gerrymandering case against Maryland Democrats

Photo: Olivier Douliery / Getty Images

The Supreme Court heard a legal challenge on Wednesday, arguing that a congressional district in Maryland was gerrymandered to favor Democrats — with an attorney claiming that the decision violated the First Amendment rights of Republican voters.

The big picture: In the spirited hour-long hearing, the justices appeared uncertain on how to rule and worried about the possibility that the court's credibility may be tarnished if it inserts itself into partisan squabbles over gerrymandering. In its history, the court has never struck down a voting map due to partisan gerrymandering.

The key takeaways:

  • Michael Kimberly, the attorney representing the Republicans, contended that Maryland's Democratic-controlled legislature “intentionally” drew the state's 6th congressional district in 2011 to boost their electoral advantage and cost a longtime GOP incumbent his seat. “They made it impossible [for opponents] to gain electoral success,” he said.
  • A majority of the Supreme Court justices indicated they may believe that what Maryland Democrats did was intentional. Justice Sonia Sotomayor highlighted "damning evidence" to that end, pointing to a deposition where then-Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, acknowledged that "it was also [his] intent" to create a district "where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican."
  • During the oral arguments, the justices acknowledged that some partisanship in redistricting is tolerable, but they repeatedly questioned how much is too much.

What's next: The court heard a similar case last October from Wisconsin where Democrats say the GOP-controlled state legislature gerrymandered the entire legislative map to maximize their majority. The decisions in both cases are expected by June.

Go deeper: Here's where the big redistricting court fights stand.

Go deeper

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."

Situational awareness

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway
  2. Greyhound bars immigration sweeps
  3. U.S. military officially stops offensive operations in Afghanistan
  4. America's future looks a lot like Nevada
  5. Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

America's future looks a lot like Nevada

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Today's Nevada caucus will foreshadow the future of American politics well beyond 2020.

Why it matters: The U.S. is in the midst of a demographic transformation, and the country's future looks a lot like Nevada's present. Today's results, in addition to shaping the 2020 race, will help tell us where politics is headed in a rapidly changing country.