2016 Rewind: U.S. court overturns Wisconsin legislative maps

Louis Weisberg, Staff writer

Amid all the disappointment suffered by Democrats during the 2016 election season, a potentially significant glimmer of hope arose in late November.

A federal three-judge panel on Nov. 21 ruled that Wisconsin’s legislative maps are unconstitutional. It was the first time such a map had been overturned due to being gerrymandered for purely political reasons.

Originally filed in July 2015, the lawsuit asked the Legislature to throw out the district maps, calling the process by which they were created “secretive,” “partisan” and intended to benefit one party over the other.

The plaintiffs said Wisconsin’s map was “far outside acceptable redistricting norms.”

The GOP’s 2011 redistricting plan reduced the number of swing districts in Wisconsin from 19 to 10. In 2012, under the maps, Republicans won 60 of 99 Assembly seats even though Democrats won a majority of the statewide vote.

“Under Republican rule for the last six years, we have seen a deliberate and concerted effort to rig Wisconsin’s elections,” said Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. “They made it harder for students to register to vote, deliberately disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters with an unnecessary Voter ID law, eliminated Wisconsin’s non-partisan elections watch-dog and now it is confirmed, they drew Wisconsin’s legislative districts so regardless of the votes cast, Republicans would maintain legislative control.”

The court did not rule on a remedy or any immediate changes to district boundaries, but rather ordered further rounds of briefing and potential testimony in the coming weeks.

Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely decide the case.

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