Wisconsin Fair Elections Project
Press Release

Federal Court overturns unconstitutional gerrymandering of Wisconsin legislative districts

The lawsuit fulfills a call issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in previous cases for a standard to measure how much partisan gerrymandering is allowable.

By - Nov 21st, 2016 04:07 pm

MADISON—A federal three-judge panel today ruled that Wisconsin’s legislative maps are unconstitutional, granting victory to 12 Wisconsin Democrats who filed suit more than a year ago. This is the first time a map has been overturned by a federal court for being gerrymandered for political reasons.

“The ruling in Whitford v. Gill (formerly Whitford v Nichol) is a stunning victory for democracy,” said Sachin Chheda, Director of the Fair Election Project, which organized and launched the lawsuit. “The citizens of Wisconsin will now have a chance to elect a government which represents us.”

“This is a victory for democracy – not just for Democrats, but for all Wisconsin citizens,” said Sen. Dale Schultz, a former Republican Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate who co-chairs the Fair Elections Project. “Everyone benefits from a fair elections process that moderates the worst tendencies of extremists in both parties.

“What happened in Wisconsin in 2011 was an egregious violation of our state’s moral values,” said Sen. Tim Cullen, a former Democratic Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate who served as the other co-chair. “Instead of voters choosing their elected officials, the Republican majority in Wisconsin decided they would entrench themselves in power despite the views of voters. The court has said today that will not stand.”

Originally filed in July 2015, the lawsuit demanded the district maps for the state Legislature be thrown out, calling the line-drawing process “secretive” and “partisan,” and the maps unconstitutional for overly advantaging one party. The lawsuit fulfills a call issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in previous cases for a standard to measure how much partisan gerrymandering is allowable, and shows how Wisconsin’s map is far outside acceptable redistricting norms. A trial was conducted in front of the federal panel in Madison in May, but the decision was just released.

“I’m very pleased with this decision,” said Bill Whitford, the lead plaintiff. “It is truly historic. As a lifelong Democrat, the court’s decision recognizes the power of my voice and the voices of all other Democrats across the state. This decision could have a monumental impact in ensuring that voters’ voices are heard across the nation, regardless of party. I want fair elections, where the voters have the power, not a gerrymander for either side created by self-interested politicians. That’s what today’s decision is all about.”

“Today is a historic day and I am thrilled with the result not only for our plaintiffs, but for all Wisconsin voters,” said lead trial attorney Peter Earle. “This decision will finally give voters in Wisconsin the power they deserve to shape their democracy. Now a fairer system will be created here in Wisconsin so all voters, not just a select few, will be able to have their voices heard.”

“This is truly a monumental victory for the plaintiffs in this case, but more importantly this is an historic moment for our nation and the betterment of democracy,” said Gerry Hebert, Director of Voting Rights and Redistricting Program at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, DC. The Campaign Legal Center joined the case in the months leading up to trial.

The court did not rule on a remedy, ordering further rounds of briefing and potentially testimony in the coming weeks.

More information about the lawsuit and campaign can be found at the Wisconsin Fair Elections website at fairelectionsproject.org, or on Facebook and Twitter using @WIFairElections

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