The Supreme Court is preparing to wade into one of the most politically charged cases in years, hearing oral arguments early next month on just how much of a role partisanship can play when states are drawing congressional and state legislative district maps.

The justices have long accepted partisanship as a part of the process, but as states become more creative in protecting one party or the other, opponents are demanding the courts to step in and put a stop to it.

That would force the justices to decide how much partisanship is too much.

Court watchers say four conservative-leaning justices are likely to side with Wisconsin and four liberal-leaning justices will almost certainly find the state map illegal.

That would once again leave Justice Anthony M. Kennedy as the decider.

Justice Kennedy “believes that the federal courts should hear partisan gerrymander cases, but he has yet to be presented with a workable standard for resolving these cases,” said Joe Kanefield, an election lawyer for Ballard Spahr LLP.

If Justice Kennedy is searching for a method, then the three-judge panel that first ruled Wisconsin’s map illegal could provide him with a workable formula.

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