- Views & Opinions
Wisconsin citizens have asked a U.S. District Court to redraw state legislative maps in advance of the next round of elections.
The request comes after a federal trial that resulted in the state’s district maps being ruled unconstitutional for being an illegal partisan gerrymander.
“The court’s verdict last month was clear — Wisconsin’s legislative maps are unconstitutional, and the GOP majority violated the rights of Wisconsin’s citizens when they adopted the map,” stated Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Elections Project, which organized and launched the lawsuit.
Chheda said on Dec. 21 the plaintiffs in the case “formally asked that the maps be replaced, so we can have free and fair elections in the state of Wisconsin. The citizens of Wisconsin should have a chance to elect a government which represents us.”
The recent ruling in Whitford v. Gill came after a May 2016 trial.
A majority of the federal three-judge panel overseeing the case ruled in favor of the 12 Wisconsin Democrats who filed suit more than a year ago. The ruling represents the first time a map has been overturned by a federal court for being a political gerrymander.
In a separate filing this week, the state of Wisconsin — which lost the trial — asked for any further action in the District Court to be put on hold until its U.S. Supreme Court appeal is heard and decided.
The state wants the High Court to overturn the trial court’s decision and to allow the Legislature to redraw maps.
The citizen plaintiffs, in contrast, argue the redrawing process should take place during the appeal in order to ensure the maps are in place in a timely manner. The plaintiffs also asked the court to draw the maps, rather than allow another biased effort by a legislative majority to create the boundaries.
“Every Wisconsin citizen deserves the right to have their vote count,” said state Sen. Dale Schultz, a former Republican Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate, who co-chairs the Fair Elections Project. “The plaintiffs won at trial, they won twice earlier in the process when the state tried to short-circuit this case, and now they are likely to win at the Supreme Court.”
“What happened in Wisconsin in 2011 was an egregious violation of our state’s moral values,” added Sen. Tim Cullen, a former Democratic Majority Leader of the Wisconsin State Senate, who serves as the other co-chair of the project. “Instead of voters choosing their elected officials, the Republican majority in Wisconsin decided they would entrench themselves in power despite the views of voters. The court has said clearly that will not stand.”
Filed in July 2015, the lawsuit demands district maps for the state Legislature be thrown out, calling the line-drawing process “secretive” and “partisan.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Peter Earle and Doug Poland as co-lead trial counsel, Prof. Nicholas Stephanopoulos of the University of Chicago Law School, Michele Odorizzi of Mayer Brown, and a team from the Campaign Legal Center, including Gerry Hebert and Ruth Greenwood.