Litigators Urge Supreme Court to Uphold Decision Striking Down Wisconsin’s Partisan Gerrymander in Landmark Case, Gill v. Whitford

May 8, 2017
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WASHINGTON – The legal team representing 12 Wisconsin voters in the case Gill v. Whitford filed a brief today urging the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a lower court ruling striking down Wisconsin’s 2011 State Assembly map as unconstitutional. The brief responds to Wisconsin’s call to reverse the district court’s decision.

Lawyers from the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) along with co-counsel represent the Wisconsin voters in the case.

“A three-judge panel in Wisconsin federal court rightfully held that Wisconsin lawmakers drew these maps for the benefit of their own political party, with little regard for the will of the voters,” said Paul Smith, vice president of litigation and strategy at the Campaign Legal Center. “Partisan gerrymandering of this kind is worse now than at any time in recent memory. The Supreme Court has the opportunity to ensure the maps in Wisconsin are drawn fairly, and further, has the opportunity to create ground rules that safeguard every citizen’s right to freely choose their representatives.”

The question now before the Supreme Court is whether it will affirm the ruling of the lower court and agree to standards that will safeguard the fundamental right of all Americans to have their vote count. The Supreme Court will have the opportunity to take up the case in conference later this spring before it adjourns for the summer recess. Because of the unique procedures for redistricting cases, the Supreme Court must consider the case, either summarily affirming, summarily reversing or hearing the case on the merits. 

On Nov. 21, 2016, Judge Kenneth Francis Ripple, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote for a three-judge district court panel that Wisconsin’s State Assembly district map violates the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The panel reached this conclusion after conducting a full trial on the matter, hearing extensive evidence from both sides.

“The threat of partisan gerrymandering isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue; it’s an issue for all American voters,” said Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center, and former Republican Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “Across the country, we’re witnessing legislators of both parties seizing power from voters in order to advance their purely partisan purposes. The Supreme Court should take this opportunity to adopt a clear legal standard that would ensure our democracy functions as it should.”

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 to create a district plan that is one of the most extremely gerrymandered state legislative plans in the last four decades.  As a result, in the first election under the plan, Republicans won a supermajority of 60 out of 99 seats in spite of 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.

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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