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Unconstitutional: Court Strikes Down Republican Gerrymandering In Wisconsin

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Unconstitutional: Court Strikes Down Republican Gerrymandering In Wisconsin

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MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – Republicans in Wisconsin tilted district maps in their favor in order to hamper Democrats and ultimately win state elections in 2012 and 2014, a federal court said on Monday in a case that could influence future rulings on gerrymandering.

The United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin decided 2-1 that Act 43, a redrawing of districts approved by the state’s Republican-led legislature in 2012, violated the U.S. Constitution, court documents showed.

“We find that the discriminatory effect is not explained by the political geography of Wisconsin nor is it justified by a legitimate state interest,” the court wrote in its ruling.

The case has no bearing on Donald Trump’s victory in Wisconsin in the presidential election on Nov. 8, in which he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement that he planned to appeal, which would send the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A ruling there on gerrymandering – the practice of manipulating electoral boundaries for political advantage – could have wide implications across the country as similar cases in Maryland and North Carolina work their way through lower courts.

“This is a big victory for those who want to see courts rein in partisan gerrymandering. But it is anybody’s guess what happens to this when it gets to the Supreme Court,” wrote Richard Hasen, an elections law expert at the University of California, Irvine, on his blog.

Since 2010, Republicans have more than doubled their control of state legislatures. They now control both legislative chambers in a record 32 states, the New York Times reported.

“Republicans win elections because we have better candidates and a better message that continues to resonate with the voters,” said Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in a statement.

Twelve Wisconsin voters argued in their lawsuit that Republicans redrew maps in 2011 to divide Democratic voters so they fall short of a majority in districts and to concentrate Democratic voters into districts so they win by overwhelming margins and dilute votes of Democrats statewide, according to the ruling.

Despite receiving 51 percent of the votes statewide in 2012, Democrats won only 39 of 99 Assembly seats. In 2014, Republicans won roughly the same percentage of votes statewide, but won 63 seats, a 24-seat disparity, judges wrote.

The Wisconsin case hinged on a new way to measure the discriminatory effect of gerrymandering. The “efficiency gap” measure found the redistricting in Wisconsin caused Democrats to waste more votes than Republicans.

The measure gives judges “a clear threshold for deciding what is acceptable”, Barry Burden, the director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the New York Times.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

IMAGE: Voters wait in line to cast their ballots during early voting at the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus, in Columbus, Ohio U.S., October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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12 Comments

  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 22, 2016

    The American political system is rife with greedy, power hungry politicians who would stoop so low as to manipulate the political apparatus to their advantage.
    Just another sign of the overwhelming influence of materialism in American society and its uniquely acute influence on a certain Wing of American government.
    A major overhaul of governance, from the very rotten foundation to the top, is required.

    Reply
    1. CrankyToo November 23, 2016

      And, of course, that major overhaul will begin when the wingnutz are no longer in charge of the asylum (in other words, never because, as dtgraham pointed out above, this is a self-perpetuating problem.)

      Reply
      1. dpaano November 23, 2016

        I might agree somewhat, but if we stop fighting this, we’ll NEVER get anything done and who knows what we can get done if we really get out there and try! Never give up!!! We need to take these states back one state at a time! It won’t be easy, but it can be done if we all hang in there! I know that I’m not giving up, and I hope others on this site agree!

        Reply
  2. dtgraham November 22, 2016

    Republicans have done this in many other states after the wave election of 2010. The Republican Party’s structural advantages in state legislative and U.S. House races stem strictly from gerrymandering.  Their control of most state legislatures lets Republicans draw boundaries in a way that’s a lot more GOP-friendly than the natural population distribution would suggest.

    It looks like a self perpetuating thing because the Dems need control of some of those state legislatures in order to redraw districts in a fair and representative way in the next census year of 2020. Which beggars the question, how do they get control of them in an election with the districts rigged in favour of the Republicans? Can be done but it’s real tough. For example, it’s estimated that the Dems would need to have at least a 7.25% vote percentage advantage to re-take the federal Congress by the slimmest of margins. That’s actually huge. The GOP midterm wave election of 2010 only had the Republicans winning with a vote differential of 6.6%.

    They would have needed Clinton to win in order to take the state electoral maps to the SCOTUS, and win there. They’re not likely to win there now with Trump putting a bunch of Alitos and Scalias there over the next few years. Any GOP controlled state will then just appeal any unfavourable lower court ruling on gerrymandering to the Supreme Court.

    Hillary will have about 2 million more votes than Trump. The Dems would probably have re-taken the Congress in 2012 with normal districts. The makeup of many of the state Houses do not reflect the popular vote. The Democrats have much more support than is portrayed by the electoral map, but what good does it do if they can’t translate it into electoral success?

    Reply
    1. CrankyToo November 23, 2016

      You’re absolutely right. It’s going to take a cathartic event – the likes of which this country has never seen – to finally turn the electorate against the lying, cheating, thieving Republicans in numbers sufficient enough to neutralize the infestation of conservatism which pervades the body politic.

      Reply
    2. dpaano November 23, 2016

      Again, as I’ve said before, the GOP is angling for a “imperial” country….one where ONLY Republicans are in power and can do whatever they wish. This is NOT a democracy and it is NOT what our Founding Fathers wished for this country! We have to stop the GOP from taking over every state due to their machinations of the districts by gerrymandering! It’s ridiculous and its wrong and more people in this country need to see this and fight it!

      Reply
  3. michelebenson November 23, 2016

    1 yr ago I decided to abandon my last job and I am so happy now… I started doing work over internet, for a company I discovered online, several hours a day, and I earn much more than i did on my last job… Last check i got was for 9 thousand dollars… Awesome thing about it is the more time i got with my family… http://chilp.it/8d93f4b

    Reply
  4. FireBaron November 23, 2016

    Now all they have to do is go after Texas. Once again this year, more people in Texas voted for Democratic House Candidates than Republican ones. Yet, because of gerrymandering there, the state has very few Democratic House members.

    Reply
    1. dtgraham November 23, 2016

      I had no idea that more Texans were voting Democrat than Republican in state House races.

      Reply
  5. dpaano November 23, 2016

    I think this gerrymandering crap has to stop! This is a democracy and, in a democracy, people should ALL be allowed to vote without any curbs! The GOP has put so many blockages in front of voters that they’ve managed to take over many states in their run for an “imperial” country! Do we want our country to be run by ONLY Republicans? If so, we can kiss democracy as we know it good-bye! This is NOT what our Founding Fathers intended for this country and our courts have to keep it from continuing!

    Reply
    1. 788eddie November 24, 2016

      Just more evidence, dpaano, that Republicans don’t really believe in the concept of democracy. They always want to have an “edge.”

      Reply
      1. dpaano November 28, 2016

        What’s really funny now is that Trump is screaming “scam” because the Stein/Hillary recounts in the 3 top states! You can bet your first born that if the table was turned and he lost to Hillary, he’s be screaming for recounts himself! And, now he says that he actually won the popular vote because the 2.5M popular votes for Hillary were “illegal voters.” He even put California in that group……California has ALWAYS voted Democrat for as long as I can remember…..not sure why he would think that California voting for Hillary was because of “illegal voters!”

        Reply

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