District Court Says Fix Wisconsin District Boundaries

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WISCONSINREPORT.COM (01/27/2017) – A three judge federal district court ruling requires the State of Wisconsin to redraw legislative district boundaries. The existing boundaries were created by a Republican controlled legislature. Democrats complained that the boundaries of the districts favored the election of majority party candidates as a result. Today’s ruling based on the federal district court proceedings attempts to remedy what is perceived as unfair voter makeup resulting from the current borders, otherwise known as gerrymandering.

“Today’s decision by the federal court is in keeping with what those of us who brought this case forward knew all along, Wisconsin’s legislative boundaries were deliberately drawn by the Republican majority to disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as possible while allowing Republicans to maintain their majority status for at least a decade,” said State Representative Frederick Kessler (D-Milwaukee) in response to the news.

“It was a blatantly partisan gerrymander. The court heard evidence, and was convinced, that it was one of the worst such maps in the entire country. Further damning the Republican efforts to draw such a map and have it pass constitutional muster was the ample evidence brought forth in trial that showed they had drafted far less partisan maps, but decided to go as far as they could in their final version,” Kessler explained.

“Nearly two years ago, I brought together a small group of people who felt the same way I did about these maps. We began working on ideas to bring to light the incredibly partisan efforts by Republicans to leave Democrats without a voice in the Legislature. We were able to attract the attention of some very prominent lawyers and law professors who volunteered their time to help our efforts,” Kessler continued.

Some of the people who were involved in the lawsuit, include Sachin Chheda, Attorneys Peter Earle, Richard Saks, James Hall, and Ruth Greenwood, University of Chicago Law Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, and former University of Wisconsin Law Professor William Whitford. Kessler says they not only brought the case forward, but provided the federal court with evidence of what the partisan gerrymander has done and would continue to do for fair representation.

“This decision is likely to be a landmark case, with the federal court accepting a bench-line formula for determining unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders,” State Representative Frederick Kessler said.

However, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty president and general counsel Rick Esenberg is concerned about the district court decision, “because the United States Supreme Court may well reverse, plunging Wisconsin into a period in which no one will know which Assembly districts are the “real” ones, it would have been better to let the United States Supreme Court review the case”.

“It would have been wiser for the panel to stay its decision until its novel theory has been ruled on by the US Supreme Court,” WILL president and general counsel Esenberg said.

If Republicans appeal the district court ruling, Esenberg predicts the Supreme Court will reverse its decision. If that occurs in the Spring or Summer of 2018, today’s decision will place candidates in political limbo. For instance, whould they circulate election nomination papers in the old district or the new one? Must the candidate live in the old district or the new one? And so on.

“Today’s decision leaves the candidates at risk on these issues and creates uncertainty for the State that is unnecessary”, WILL president and general counsel Esenberg states. In his opinion, “the better course would have been to stay the previous decision until it is resolved by the Supreme Court”.

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