A Decision Not To Decide and A Place In Space

In a 9-0 decision the Supreme Court of the United States decided not to decide in the case of Gill v. Whitford. The case involved gerrymandering in the state of Wisconsin and whether the new district draw in 2011 systematically and strategically diluted the voting strength of the Democratic party and placed members of the Democratic party at a disadvantage when voting. History on the case: Back in 2010 a Republican majority was elected to the state assembly, senate and governorship. That new majority then decided during its tenure to redraw the voting district map of the state which was passed by the assembly and the senate in July 2011 and the Governor signed it into the one month later. The redistricting was done through a method known as packing and cracking; Democratic voters were “packed” into a few districts where the party was nearly guaranteed to win, and the others were “cracked” into various districts elsewhere in the state. Prior to being enacted the plan faced two legal challenges; one on a statutory ground; the one person one vote principle, and the second on the Constitutional issue of Equal Protection. How did the case end up in the Supreme Court? Twelve Democratic voters from Wisconsin suggested that if a party gets a wasted-vote advantage of more than 7 percent of the total vote in the state that the courts should limit partisan gerrymandering as a Constitutional violation. (Wisconsin’s legislative map had efficiency gaps of 13 percent in 2012 and 10 percent in 2014) The Court ultimately did not decide whether or not they should be granted that authority, rather they stated that there was no standing for the case to be heard and remanded the case back to the district court. The majority opinion took issue with the nexus between the claimed injury and the proposed remedy. The injury as presented in court was that voters in particular districts were unfairly treated, as their vote was diluted (these would be the “cracked” voters), the proposed remedy, a redistricting of the entire state. Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the majority; “To the extent the plaintiffs’ alleged harm is the dilution of their votes, that injury is district specific….In this case the remedy that is proper and sufficient lies in the revision of the boundaries of the individual’s own district.” Instead of focusing on the individual districts which had been harmed, Plaintiffs in this case went after the state map as a whole using the “efficiency gap” metric. There was a concurring opinion written by Justice Kagan which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor joined. This opinion noted the “evils” of partisan gerrymandering and agreed with the lack of standing decision but argued that, should the plaintiffs come back with better evidence about gerrymandering’s impact in their own districts, they could still “make use of statewide evidence and seek a statewide remedy.” Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Gorsuch joined. "After a year and a half of litigation in the District Court, including a 4-day trial, the plaintiffs had a more-than-ample opportunity to prove their standing under these principles...They failed to do so."

The Court also ruled in an unsigned opinion in the case of Benisek v. Lamone. The Court affirmed the decision of the District Court from Maryland to not block the state from holding congressional elections under the map that was drawn in 2011 and force state officials to redraw its sixth Congressional District. The decision went against Republican voters who had claimed Democratic officials had unfairly disadvantaged them in the Sixth Congressional District.

The case of League of Women Voters v. Rucho is pending before the Court and could be placed in the docket for next term

The president today held a meeting with the National Space Council. During this meeting Trump directed the Department of Defense to create a sixth branch of the military, soley dedicated to creating a U.S. dominance in space.  "I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces….Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security," Trump said. This announcement was not entirely out of the blue as Trump had mentioned creating a “space force back in March. What exactly would a space force sound like? Last June, The House Armed Services Committee proposed the National Defense Authorization Act which aimed to authorize the establishment of a space corps, a new branch of the military that would fall under the command of the Air Force. This branch's relationship to the Air Force would be similar to the Marine Corps' ties to the Navy. The space corps would have an area of responsibility that encompasses the vast expanse outside of the Earth's atmosphere. The Act passed the House but never made it to the Senate for a vote.