United States Supreme Court to hear redistricting case
The United States Supreme Court will begin opening arguments in Gil vs. Whitford, the Wisconsin redistricting case, on Oct. 3. This is a significant case. The last time the Supreme Court took up this issue was in 2004. At the time, it was determined the courts should not review partisan gerrymandering because there was not an appropriate test to evaluate claims. Over the last 13 years, as partisan gerrymandering has escalated, political scientists and mathematicians have been working on that standard.
The original federal court decision found the 2011 Republican gerrymandering of Wisconsin legislative districts unconstitutional. The court ordered the legislature to adopt new legislative districts no later than Nov. 1, 2017. However, it did not specify a process for the legislature to follow or what criteria would satisfy constitutional requirements. That decision was appealed to the Supreme Court. Because they will not hear the case until this fall, a decision is not expected until sometime in 2018. This means there will be not be new maps drawn by the initial November deadline.
If the Supreme Court affirms the lower court decision, the decision will likely include criteria for determining when partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. This is critical. Republicans currently enjoy overwhelming majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature because of partisan gerrymandering. My hope is that the Supreme Court agrees that the maps were unconstitutionally drawn and go on to provide guidance for a future process, as well as a path to solve this problem before the 2018 elections. Failure to address this issue will continue to have a lasting impact, setting the stage for another decade of elections that do not reflect voter preferences.