Gill v. Whitford Ruling Leaves Open Questions for Future of Partisan Gerrymandering Cases

Jun 19, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court’s long-awaited ruling on Gill v. Whitford came down Monday. But the court didn't rule on the constitutinality question surrounding the claims of illegal partisan gerrymandering in the Wisconsin redistricting cast. 

Instead, the court ruled that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to bring the suit. The justices threw the case back to lower courts, where the plaintiffs could adjust their case accordingly.

"The new argument is going to have to be that the entire map is what burdens representational rights in the State of Wisconsin," says David Daley, senior fellow at FairVote and author of the book, Ratf—ed: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy.

READ: One Writer's Case For How Gerrymandering Turned the Badger State Red

"The new argument is going to have to be that the entire map is what burdens representational rights in the State of Wisconsin."

He continues, "It's not simply the ability or inability to have your vote matter toward the election of your individual representative, it's a question of whether all of these districts - when you add up the totality of the gerrymandering across the state - entrenches the Republican's political power in such a way that the individual Democrats in those districts voting for their own, individual representative, have their rights violated." 

Daley admits the ruling is highly technical, but it specifically doesn't rule out a retrial of this case in the high court, provided they follow at least some of the guidelines provided by Justice Elena Kagan. 

"I think what you will see is more plaintiffs from more districts across Wisconsin who are sought out to join the suit. You might also have a statewide interests - like the state Democratic Party, or other political organizations - that step in and assert their standing."

"There is the opportunity here for the attornies and the reformers in Wisconsin to reargue this case in the lower courts and to assert a standing," he explains. "So I think what you will see is more plaintiffs from more districts across Wisconsin who are sought out to join the suit. You might also have a statewide interests - like the state Democratic Party, or other political organizations - that step in and assert their standing."

Some critics have said the ruling ultimately presented a win for attornies, more than the plaintiffs or defendents, since there are likely to be many more days in court. 

"There's certainly optimistic signs here," says Daley. "This is not over yet, but the road is still very, very difficult."