How This Came To be
In 2013, a small group convened by Representative Fed Kessler and concerned about the unfair nature of Wisconsin’s Assembly districts began to analyze the situation in order to better understand what could be done about this extreme, partisan gerrymander. Initially stymied due to the lack of a clear legal standard on how to prove excessive partisan gerrymandering, the group eventually came upon the work of University of Chicago Law School Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, who proposed a mathematical theory that could measure excessive partisan redistricting.
With the help of two leading experts, the group discovered that, in 2011, Wisconsin’s maps were the most partisan maps drawn by a legislature in the entire nation and that out of 800 redistricting plans, Wisconsin’s 2011 maps were the 28th most partisan states maps adopted in the US since the 1970 census. Both experts concluded that these partisan maps would mean that Democrats could not win a majority in the State Assembly, despite receiving a majority of the votes in Wisconsin.
This research led to the filing of a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the redistricting law. After winning two hearings in which Republicans tried to prevent the case from ever being heard in court, the case went to trial before a three-judge federal panel made up of two judges appointed by Republican Presidents and one by a Democratic President.
On November 21st, 2016, the court ruled that the Wisconsin law creating these rigged maps in 2011 was unconstitutional. The court held that the maps violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution in a decision written by a Reagan appointee, Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Ripple.
Now, with the 2018 campaign cycle beginning, the court has given Governor Walker and Republicans in the State Legislature until November 1st this year to create a new map that better represents the will of the people of Wisconsin. They have shown that, when left to their own devices, they cannot be trusted to do what is right and create fair maps, so we have to hold them accountable and keep up the pressure so they know we are watching. Even as the process of drawing new maps is going on, they are still fighting to have the US Supreme Court allow them to keep their rigged system. We must fight back and we must see this process of redistricting through.
The court was clear: a majority of voters should choose the majority of legislators. Together, we can make that happen.
Want to learn even more about this case and the work that has gone into it? You can read all of the filings in the case here at the Campaign Legal Center.
The Fair Elections Project is a group working to change how politics works in the United States, with an emphasis on partisan gerrymandering.
The Campaign Legal Center is a nonpartisan election law organization working against partisan gerrymandering. Click to read all the filings from Whitford v Gill.
AB 44 is our bill to bring nonpartisan redistricting to Wisconsin.
The League of Women Voters has been pushing for nonpartisan redistricting and agrees with our plan to bring nonpartisan districts to Wisconsin.