A federal judicial panel ruled on Monday that the Wisconsin Legislature’s redrawing of State Assembly districts before the election to favor Republicans was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, The New York Times reported. It is the first such ruling in three decades of pitched legal battles over the issue.
The 2-to-1 ruling by the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin said that the Legislature’s remapping violated both the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it aimed to deprive Democratic voters of their right to be represented.
The report cites several election-law scholars who said the ruling was especially significant because it offered, for the first time, a clear mathematical formula for measuring partisanship in a district, something that had been missing in previous assaults on gerrymandering.
“It is a huge deal,” said Heather Gerken, a Yale Law School professor and an expert on election law. “For years, everyone has waited for the Supreme Court to do something on this front. Now one of the lower courts has jump-started the debate.
“If this were to be a nationwide standard, 2021 would look quite different,” she said, “especially for the Democrats.”
The case could now go directly to the Supreme Court, where its fate may rest with a single justice, Anthony M. Kennedy, who has expressed a willingness to strike down partisan gerrymanders but has yet to accept a rationale for it, The Times states.
The judges who ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, Kenneth Ripple and Barbara Crabb, were nominated to the bench by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Judge William Griesbach, nominated by President George W. Bush, dissented, according to the report.
This is not the first time Republicans have used illegal redistricting to win elections. In 2012, a federal judicial panel derailed the Texas redistricting plan ruling it violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting minority voting strength and discriminating against Hispanics and African Americans.
H/T: The New York Times.