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December 2015: Wisconsin Gerrymandering Lawsuit Will Continue

Map of Wisconsin Assembly Districts

For an update on this story, check out this April 2016 post: Federal Judges Ruling Moves Wisconsin Redistricting Lawsuit Forward

Original story from December 18, 2015:

A panel of federal judges has ruled that 12 Democratic voters can continue their lawsuit against Wisconsin's Assembly district boundaries drawn in 2012. The suit claims the lines unconstitutionally give an advantage to one political party over another.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel had asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit but the judges rejected the request. They stated that the plaintiffs could prevail, to some extent, although they face significant challenges because the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected partisan gerrymandering claims in the past.

State Republicans redrew Wisconsin's political map following the 2010 census because the GOP took control of both houses of the Legislature at the start of 2011. In past decades, the Legislature was split, so courts were brought in to perform the redistricting.

Those suing argue that while courts have allowed some gerrymandering, its extent in Wisconsin is far outside of acceptable norms. The plaintiffs say that even though Democratic voters have outnumbered Republican voters in Wisconsin, the GOP now solidly controls the Assembly because of how the party drew new legislative districts. The lawsuit insists the 2012 districting plan violates some voters' Fourteenth Amendment guarantees by treating them unequally and diluting their voting power, and their First Amendment rights of free speech and association.

The plaintiffs hope the U.S. Supreme Court takes their case, called Whitford v. Nichol.  The next court date is in May.

The lawsuit was filed against the Government Accountability Board as the administrator of Wisconsin's election laws. State leaders are in the process of dismantling the GAB and replacing it with two agencies comprised of political appointees.

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