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How a Wisconsin Case Before the Supreme Court Could Shake up Indiana Elections

Justices considering whether to outlaw overly partisan gerrymandering

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Legislative maps in Indiana and across the country could be affected by a Wisconsin case before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Wisconsin Democrats are arguing the state's legislative maps are unconstitutionally tilted toward Republicans. Past decisions have required that districts be drawn with equal populations, and have prohibited diluting the votes of minorities, either by packing them into a small number of districts or spreading their votes across several. But the court has never thrown out a map for favoring one party, in part because it's questioned how you could separate that from voters' overall preferences. 

IUPUI professor and former ACLU Indiana executive director Sheila Kennedy says a University of Chicago study may address the justices' concerns, or at least those of frequent swing justice Anthony Kennedy. The Chicago study argues you can measure partisan gerrymandering by comparing each party's "wasted votes": votes cast for the losing candidate on the one hand, and on the other, votes cast for the winner beyond the 50-percent needed to clinch victory.

The Associated Press calculates Republicans would still control Congress even if that test were in effect, but with 18 fewer House seats in nine states. 

Indiana's 7-2 Republican majority wouldn't be affected, and a Washington Post analysis praised Indiana's congressional maps as one of the nation's best, with hardly any of the twists and squiggles that gave the gerrymander its name. But the Chicago study charges Indiana's state House districts are a different story, listing Indiana among 12 states unfairly tilted toward one party.

Republicans won 60 Indiana House seats in 2010 on maps drawn by Democrats. They added nine seats in the next election after redrawing the maps, and have picked up one more since.

The maps are scheduled to be redrawn again in 2021.

(Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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