Campaign Legal Center Files Brief in Landmark SCOTUS Gerrymandering Case

Aug 28, 2017
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Urges Court to “strike a blow” against practice that “increasingly threatens our democracy”

WASHINGTON – Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and co-counsel today filed a merits brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark partisan gerrymandering case Gill v. Whitford. The brief urges the Supreme Court to strike down Wisconsin’s extreme partisan gerrymandering scheme which all but guarantees one party control of the state Assembly for the entire decade, irrespective of how the voters cast their ballots.  The case will be heard at the Supreme Court on October 3.

“Partisan gerrymandering is worse now than at any time in recent memory,” said Paul Smith, vice president of litigation and strategy at the Campaign Legal Center who will argue the case before the Supreme Court. “The Supreme Court has the opportunity to help restore the integrity of American democracy by creating ground rules that safeguard every American’s fundamental right to vote and have it count.”

Wisconsin’s partisan gerrymander – created in 2011 by legislative aides and hired consultants in a secret room in a private law office – employed the latest mapping technology and data analysis to create a district plan that is one of the most extremely gerrymandered state legislative plans in the last four decades. Consequently, in the first election under the plan, Republicans won a supermajority of 60 out of 99 seats despite losing the statewide vote for the Assembly. In 2014 and 2016, Republicans extended their advantage to 63 and 64 seats, respectively, even though the statewide vote remained nearly tied.  As a result, for the first time in 31 years, a lower court—after a four-day trial—struck down the plan as an unconstitutional gerrymander.

Appellees argue that Wisconsin's gerrymander violates both the Equal Protection Clause by diluting the electoral influence of a targeted group of voters, and the First Amendment, by penalizing these voters because of their political beliefs.

“Partisan gerrymandering is a concern for all Americans, both Republicans and Democrats,” said Trevor Potter, president of CLC, and former Republican Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “Across the country, lawmakers of both parties are seizing power from voters to keep themselves in control. We are confident that when the justices see how pervasive and damaging this practice has become, the Court will adopt a clear legal standard that will ensure our democracy functions as it should.”

The brief rebuts arguments advanced by the state, and highlights that the map was “crafted with an obsessive focus on partisan advantage.” It refutes the notion advanced by the state of Wisconsin that there is a neutral justification for the map’s large partisan tilt. The brief notes that several sets of maps, along with other evidence, demonstrate that neither efforts to comply with traditional redistricting criteria nor Wisconsin’s political geography can explain the map’s large and durable partisan skew.  Wisconsin’s 2011 map, the brief argues, clearly meets a three-prong test for a partisan gerrymander: it was designed with discriminatory intent; it has had a discriminatory effect; and there is no valid justification for the map other than partisan gerrymandering.

Amicus briefs in support of appellees will be filed on September 5, 2017.

Learn more about CLC’s efforts on behalf of the 12 plaintiffs in Whitford here.

Learn more about the redistricting process, how it works, and the everyday impacts of partisan gerrymandering on our democracy here.

Private counsel working with CLC in representing the appellees includes Douglas M. Poland of Rathje & Woodward, Peter G. Earle, Michele L. Odorizzi of Mayer Brown, Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos of the University of Chicago Law School and Jessica R. Amunson of Jenner & Block.

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