In Benisek, Maryland Republicans claimed that Maryland Democrats who were in charge of drawing voting districts did so unfairly.
Maryland’s Sixth Congressional district had traditionally gone in good favor to the Republican candidate. But that was until the Democrats redrew the Congressional districts in 2011. The Republicans’ brief described what the Democrats did as “dismantling” the Sixth District:
“Using big data and cutting-edge redistricting software, mapdrawers meticulously dismantled the Sixth District, removing large swaths of territory dominated by rural Republicans and replacing them with smaller, densely populated areas dominated by suburban Democrats.”
How did the Court avoid the gerrymandering question?
They had a good reason in this case. The case came to the Justices after being rejected for temporary relief. That means the lower court hadn’t attempted to make a final ruling on the Maryland Republicans’ political gerrymandering claim. As the infographic describes, claims for temporary relief are considered on stricter grounds than claims for permanent relief. That’s because getting preliminary relief is an “extraordinary remedy.” So plaintiffs had to prove several points in addition to their likelihood of success on the big political gerrymandering question.
The Supreme Court ruled the plaintiffs had failed before even reaching consideration of elements of a political gerrymandering claim.
So what happens in the case?
The plaintiffs – the Maryland republicans – will have a chance to argue their main case. This one just put an end to their request for temporary relief. So as long as the case doesn’t become moot or get dismissed for another reason, it’s possible the political gerrymandering question could come back up to the Supreme Court, in this action, in a later term.