In a precedent-setting decision, a panel of federal judges found Wisconsin’s 2011 legislative map to be a case of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.
As reported in the Wisconsin State Journal, Republican Party leaders, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, created the map “virtually in secret,” in order to redraw districts to favor their own party.
Judge Kenneth Ripple, senior judge on the three-judge federal panel wrote in the final judgement:
‘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.
‘Finally, we find that the discriminatory effect is not explained by the political geography of Wisconsin nor is it justified by a legitimate state interest. Consequently, Act 43 constitutes an unconstitutional political gerrymander.’
The 116-page decision was handed down on Monday, six months after testimony was heard in a Madison, Wisconsin, federal court. The decision included a dissent from U.S. District Judge William Griesbach, with the third member of the panel being U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb.
The court did not call for a plan of action, but ordered both sides to file a proposed remedy within 30 days.
Jessie Opoien, political reporter for the Capitol Times, announced the historical decision on Twitter.
— Jessie Opoien (@jessieopie) November 21, 2016
The Democratic Party filed the complaint, calling the 2011 redistricting plan “one of the worst partisan gerrymanders in modern American history.” Using a measurement tool called the “efficiency gap,” the Democrats were able to show that the map intentionally broke up blocs of Democratic voters, reducing their influence in their own districts.
According to the Journal, Republicans countered the complaint by claiming:
‘As the majority party, they can draw the map any way they choose, short of creating districts that disenfranchise racial minorities.’
The case is good news for Wisconsin, but also sets a strong precedent for other states whose maps are redrawn to favor the party in power. According to Gerry Hebert, director of the Campaign Legal Center, which represented the Democrats in court:
‘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.;
According to The Star Tribune, although the lawsuit focuses on Assembly district seats, Senate districts are based on the same maps, and the ruling invalidates the map for both.
Some Democratic voters want the results of the recent election reconsidered in light of the illegality of the district map. Wisconsin Public Radio reported last Wednesday that the plaintiffs in the case are also asking the court to review the 2016 election, which resulted in the Republicans winning control of nearly two-thirds of the governing Wisconsin legislature.
According to Election Law Blog, the ruling is sure to be appealed by the Republicans, where writer Rick Hasen assumes that President-elect Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee may come into play. According to Hasen, it is very likely that the case will be heard by the Supreme Court, and if not, one of the similar rulings from Maryland and North Carolina would be heard.
For a fast and fun explanation of gerrymandering and how the illegal practice favors one political party over another, watch the segment below from the TruTV show, Adam Ruins Everything.
Featured image via Getty Images