The U.S. Supreme Court will review a case on partisan gerrymandering that could affect future elections.
Justices heard oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford on Tuesday, the first case on partisan redistricting to make its way to the highest court in the nation in more than a decade.
Gerrymandering is the redrawing of Congressional district lines in order to favor a political party, typically the party that is currently in the majority.
Wisconsin Democrats say district lines in their state have been drawn to favor Republicans. In 2012, Republicans lost the statewide popular vote but still won 60 percent of the seats in the state assembly.
A three-judge court ruled in 2011 that Wisconsin lawmakers had drawn political district maps that were heavily advantageous to Republicans and violated Democratic voters' First Amendment rights to political expression. The judges ordered the state to redraw new maps for the 2018 elections.
Although the court wont release its decision until later in the Spring of 2018, the ruling could have dramatic consequences for upcoming elections and could impact the balance of power in state governments as well as the House of Representatives.
"It's probably one of the most important Supreme Court cases that will happen in our generation," said Zack Kohn, 26, one of hundreds of people who lined up outside the court to hear arguments in the case.
Dozens of protesters and lawmakers rallied outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, calling for an end to partisan gerrymandering.
Jennifer Ellingston, 86, says she's been fighting against partisan gerrymandering for decades, and thinks this case could be the best shot at ending the practice.
"They have to draw the lines, and the population should be distributed, but they can do it in such a way that their party’s number population gets the advantage. When it finally comes time to vote it’s just a walk away," she said.
Others gathered outside the court said they feel like they aren't being fairly represented by a rigged system.
"I’m a big advocate of one person one vote, we learn about it all the time at school, it’s one of the main things that drives democracy. The other side is like, 'Well, they’re still being given the right to vote.' It’s like, what's the purpose of having that right to vote if your vote is not equal to somebody else’s vote, just because of an arbitrary classification," said Monica Coscia, a first-year law student from New Jersey.
Protesters said they hoped ending gerrymandering would lead to more bipartisanship and less extremism in American politics.
"I think that a large part of the reason that there is polarization in our country, the high level of polarization is due to gerrymandering," Kohn said.
Former California Republican Rep. David Jolly, who spoke at the rally, argued gerrymandered districts insulate incumbents so that they can only be ousted by a primary challenger. Only 28.5 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2016 presidential primary, according to the Pew Research Center. That's actually a higher percentage than usual. In 2012, only 14.5 percent of eligible voters turned up at the polls for the primaries.
"I think if we had as many electorally competitive districts as possible, we would see remarkable action in Washington, and for the parties I think you’d see their approval ratings go up as well," Jolly said.
All eyes will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy. In his decision on Vieth v. Jubelirer in 2004, Kennedy said that he would need to see statistical evidence to prove a partisan bias before he would rule gerrymandering unconstitutional. Wisconsin Democrats are trying to do just that with this case and have come up with a mathematical test to show that the districts have been redrawn unfairly.