As we covered last week, the US Supreme Court released their rulings on the Maryland and North Carolina partisan gerrymandering cases and whether asking about a person’s citizenship status can be placed on the 2020 census questionnaire.
On the redistricting question, the high court definitively ruled that the partisan gerrymandering question will not be adjudicated by the federal court system. Looking practically at the live cases the SCOTUS’ action affects, the redistricting battles in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin are essentially dead and their current congressional district boundaries will remain in place through the last election of this decade, in 2020.
With Democrats controlling the North Carolina state Supreme Court, it may be possible that the Tarheel State lines are redrawn because of partisan gerrymandering but whether a new case can get to them in time to affect 2020 remains questionable. Unlike the US Supreme Court, the North Carolina high panel does not have the authority to bring a case up before the lower courts rule.
The citizenship question is a bit more convoluted. The court ruled that the government has the right to add this question to the census, but they are sending this particular case back to the Department of Commerce because of potential motivational evidence relating to placing the citizenship query on the questionnaire.
Turning to the census ruling, though the SCOTUS made clear the government does have the right to ask the question, the result of returning it to the Commerce Department likely means the citizenship question will not be on the census questionnaire. Though the Trump Administration may try to stretch the calendar, it is probable that Commerce will not be able to comply with the high court’s directive before the 2020 census must be fielded.
At the end of last week, the US Supreme Court granted the Republicans’ motion to stay redistricting orders in Michigan and Ohio that would have forced the legislature to re-draw the respective states’ congressional maps before the 2020 election. The move could be a prelude to three important high court rulings scheduled for release at some point in June: those on the Maryland and North Carolina redistricting cases, and the constitutionality of including a citizenship question on the upcoming census questionnaire.
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