The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin recently permanently blocked the state’s redistricting plan that denies voters the ability to elect lawmakers of the political party of their choosing to the legislature.
On January 27, 2017, a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin permanently blocked the state’s redistricting plan that denies voters the ability to elect lawmakers of the political party of their choosing, to the legislature. (Case: 3:15-cv-00421-bbc).
This ruling by the court ensures that new, constitutional maps will be in place for the next state legislative elections.
Whitford v. Gill is the first case in 30 years that allowed a partisan gerrymander challenge to go to trial. The case was tried in May 2016, and on November 21, 2016 the court issued an opinion and order holding the 2011 Wisconsin redistricting plan to be an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The court’s subsequent ruling on January 27, 2017, enjoins the state from holding elections under the 2011 redistricting plan, and gives the state until November 1, 2017, to enact a redistricting plan that meets all constitutional and other legal requirements. The state will now decide whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to court documents, lead plaintiff Bill Whitford and the other 11 plaintiffs in the case are represented by Douglas M. Poland of Rathje Woodward LLC’s Madison, Wisconsin office, along with co-counsel at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) in Chicago and Washington, D.C.; Peter G. Earle; Michele L. Odorizzi of Mayer Brown; and Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos of the University of Chicago Law School.
Should Whitford v. Gill reach the Supreme Court, it will provide the nation’s highest court the opportunity to set a legal standard on partisan gerrymandering for the first time.
Doug Poland of Rathje Woodward LLC, who served as co-lead trial counsel, released the following statement:
“The November 1, 2017 deadline means the legislature has plenty of time to hold hearings with broad participation from Wisconsin citizens. There is no excuse for limiting participation by all interested parties to draw a fair map in an open and transparent process. The time for cloaking the process in secrecy has ended. The plaintiffs, their lawyers, and all of Wisconsin, are watching.”
CLC Director of Voting Rights and Redistricting Gerry Hebert, also co-lead trial counsel, released the following statement:
“This is truly another monumental victory for the plaintiffs in this case and for all Wisconsin Voters. Today, the court made a clear statement that holding yet another unconstitutional election under Act 43 would cause significant harm to the voters. The Wisconsin legislature has continuously demonstrated a disregard for the rights of the voters and an inability to craft a fair, legal redistricting plan. In drawing a new plan, the legislature must put voters first, not partisan politics. Rest assured that our plaintiffs will continue to be involved in this process, monitoring the legislature’s actions and assuring that the new plan meets all the legal requirements.”
Bill Whitford, the lead plaintiff in the case, released the following statement:
“I’m very pleased with this decision. Today is a good day for Wisconsin voters, and another step in the journey of ensuring that our voices are heard. Now, we will be keeping a watchful eye on the state legislature as they draw the new maps and I ask them, for the sake of our democracy, to put partisan politics aside and the interests of all voters first.”
Dale Schultz, former Senate Majority Leader, released the following statement:
“Wisconsin citizens deserve clarity, and potential candidates need to know what districts they would be running in,” said former Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), who co-chairs the Fair Elections Project. “The court is making the right decision to implement their verdict, and we are pleased that Wisconsin is on its way to having honest elections. I hope the Legislature chooses to conduct this new map-drawing process in an open, transparent manner, heeding the concerns of multiple federal panels.”
Sachin Chheda, Director of the Fair Elections Project, released the following statement:
“Yet again, the federal courts have ruled clearly – Wisconsin’s district maps are an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, they violate the rights of millions of Wisconsin citizens, and it’s time to move ahead and draw new maps,” said Sachin Chheda, Director of the Fair Elections Project, which helped organize the lawsuit. “This is a victory for democracy and we look forward to a process to draw these maps that engage the community and invite public participation.”
About Rathje Woodward, LLC:
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