Campaign Legal Center
Press Release

HISTORIC DECISION: Wisconsin Federal Court Strikes Down Partisan Gerrymander and Adopts Groundbreaking Legal Standard

Litigators and lead plaintiff react to historic decision

By - Nov 21st, 2016 02:50 pm

How to Steal an election. Image by Steven Nass (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

How to Steal an election. Image by Steven Nass (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

WASHINGTON A three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin today struck down Wisconsin’s state assembly district map, which is one of the most extreme partisan gerrymanders in the United States in the post-2010 cycle.

With this decision, plaintiffs have successfully alleged and proven that a state legislative redistricting plan is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander for the first time ever.

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) along with regional local counsel represent lead plaintiff Bill Whitford and the other 11 plaintiffs in the case.

CLC Director of Voting Rights and Redistricting Program Gerry Hebert released the following statement:

“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. This case proves that the rights of Wisconsin voters were infringed upon and that the self-interested, unfair practice of partisan gerrymandering hurts our democracy. With this decision, partisan gerrymandering should come to an end in Wisconsin and is now on its way to extinction across the nation.  And with the implementation of the test we proposed and the court accepted, there will be, for the first time, a standard to identify this harmful practice.”

Peter Earle, one of the Wisconsin-based attorneys representing the plaintiffs, released the following statement:

“Today is a historic day and I am thrilled with the result not only for our plaintiffs, but for all Wisconsin voters. 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.”

Bill Whitford, the lead plaintiff in the case, released the following statement:

“I’m very pleased with this decision. 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.”

The ruling issued today by the court stated the following:

“We find that Act 43 was intended to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats. Moreover, as demonstrated by the results of the 2012 and 2014 elections, among other evidence, we conclude that Act 43 has had its intended effect.”

The parties have 30 days to submit their proposals for the nature and timing of the remedial process. The plaintiffs’ three-part test, which was adopted in this case, can now be used across the country to fight back against unfair partisan gerrymandering.

Read the decision

4 thoughts on “HISTORIC DECISION: Wisconsin Federal Court Strikes Down Partisan Gerrymander and Adopts Groundbreaking Legal Standard”

  1. David Nelson says:

    Gerrymandering is a real thing, and this legal decision is a good example of revealing that. Some GOP actors will undoubtedly claim that everyone does it and this is not really gerrymandering. They will be largely wrong in both statements. First of all, both parties have engaged in gerrymandering all over the US, but Wisconsin has not been as bad as some states. The current apportionment of voting districts is among the worst examples out there.

    The message that should come out of this is: Don’t do it.

    No matter what party or individuals push for corruptly influencing the voting process, they should be shouted down. Every time.

  2. Kevin Baas says:

    It kind of misleading to say “both parties have engaged in gerrymandering all over the US.” While you can certainly find examples here and there of democratic gerrymandering, republican gerrymandering is the rule rather than the exception, at least in 2010, and Wisconsin is far from the most egregious.

    Take a look at a sorted list:

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version3/CD_PRES/sortable_2010.php

  3. Kevin Baas says:

    sort the list by packing / cracking. dark blue = republican gerrymandering (dem votes packed), dark red = democratic gerrymandering (rep votes packed)

    so you see it’s mountains and molehills. not comparable.

  4. David Nelson says:

    Kevin: I agree that it is not comparable. However, the practice is a bad one. Clearly, if we encourage rolling back gerrymandering on principle, we will accomplish practical and ethical improvement.

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