State News

Wisconsin Attorney General appeals gerrymandering case to US Supreme Court

Wisconsin’s Attorney General, Brad Schimel, appealed an earlier court ruling to the Supreme Court Friday that said state Assembly districts were unconstitutional and suppressed Democratic votes. 

Image By: Thomas Yonash and Thomas Yonash

Following a court order to redraw the state’s election maps, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday for permission to reinstate the previous electoral boundaries.

A panel of three federal judges ruled last year that state Assembly districts were unfairly drawn and “intended to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters … by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats.”

The panel of judges ordered lawmakers to put in place more fairly drawn maps by November so they could be utilized in the 2018 midterm elections.

The original ruling was made two weeks after the Democrats’ decisive defeat in November’s state Assembly races, giving Republicans their largest majority in decades.

In redistricting cases, appeals are sent directly to the Supreme Court, and the court’s decision on Schimel’s appeal could have national implications.

If the panel’s ruling is upheld, gerrymandered maps by both Democrats and Republicans across the country could come under a wave of judicial challenges. If the court decides to strike down the panel’s ruling, however, plaintiffs of redistricting cases may no longer be able to argue that maps drawn with partisanship in mind are unconstitutional.

The panel ruled that since Democratic voters had been heavily concentrated into very few districts under the existing electoral maps, many other potentially competitive districts were left instead as safe GOP seats.

Schimel, however, argued that this method of judgment is ineffective and that Democratic voters tend to live in urban centers, leading to a naturally occurring concentration of votes.

The Supreme Court, which is currently short a justice while Senate Republicans work to confirm President Donald Trump’s appointee Neil Gorsuch, could end up in a tied 4-4 decision, in which case the lower court’s ruling would stand, but would not be binding to other states.

The plaintiffs, however, hope to sway Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who has previously come out against hyper-partisan redistricting efforts.

Arguments before the high court are likely to take place later this year or early in 2018.

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