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Court Case Tracker

Current Partisan Gerrymandering Cases

Major partisan gerrymandering cases are ongoing in Maryland, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. Find summaries of those cases and related court documents here.

Published: April 26, 2017

Gill v. Whit­ford 

United States Supreme Court (No. 16–1161)

The plaintiffs, 12 Wiscon­sin resid­ents who histor­ic­ally have voted Demo­cratic, filed a lawsuit on July 8, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the West­ern District of Wiscon­sin chal­len­ging the legis­lat­ive district plan drawn by the Repub­lican-controlled legis­lature follow­ing the 2010 Census. They argue the map is uncon­sti­tu­tional because it discrim­in­ates against Demo­cratic candid­ates and voters on the basis of their polit­ical beliefs, viol­at­ing the Equal Protec­tion Clause of the Four­teenth Amend­ment, and because it burdens their First Amend­ment rights of asso­ci­ation and speech.

Earlier this year, on April 7, the three-judge federal panel ruled unan­im­ously to allow the case to proceed to trial, mark­ing the first time in three decades that partisan gerry­man­der­ing claims survived a motion to dismiss. The trial was held in late-May and posed two major ques­tions for the court. The first was whether the Wiscon­sin state house plan had been drawn with discrim­in­at­ory partisan intent. Second, assum­ing there was intent, the trial turned to whether the maps had a consti­tu­tion­ally discrim­in­at­ory effect — an issue that courts have thus far been unable to develop a simple test to resolve.

The trial provided a key initial test for the effi­ciency gap, a proposed stand­ard for determ­in­ing discrim­in­at­ory effect that counts the number of votes each party wastes in an elec­tion to determ­ine whether either party enjoyed a system­atic advant­age in turn­ing votes into seats.

On Novem­ber 21, 2016, the panel issued a 2–1 opin­ion hold­ing that Wiscon­sin’s legis­lat­ive plan was an uncon­sti­tu­tional partisan gerry­mander because it resul­ted in excess­ive partisan asym­metry that could not be explained by neut­ral factors such as polit­ical topgraphy. Shortly there­after, the panel ordered the Wiscon­sin Legis­lature put a remedial plan in place by Novem­ber 1, 2017. 

Wiscon­sin filed an appeal on Febru­ary 24, 2017, asking the Supreme Court to review the decision strik­ing down the map. 

Key plead­ings for Gill v. Whit­ford can be found here.


Benisek v. Lamone (formerly known as Shapiro v. McManus)

United States District Court for the District of Mary­land (No. 13-cv-3233)

A group of Mary­land voters filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Mary­land on Novem­ber 5, 2013 chal­len­ging the congres­sional redis­trict­ing plan enacted by the Demo­cratic-controlled Mary­land General Assembly follow­ing the 2010 Census.

In their amended complaint, plaintiffs claimed that Maryland’s 6th Congres­sional District was a partisan gerry­mander that viol­ated their repres­ent­a­tional rights guar­an­teed by Article I of the U.S. Consti­tu­tion and their First Amend­ment right of polit­ical asso­ci­ation. Until the 2011 redis­trict­ing, the Sixth District routinely sent a Repub­lican to Congress; after­ward, the district flipped, going to the Demo­cratic side. Under the plaintiffs’ theory of the case, the Demo­cratic-controlled legis­lature engin­eered this flip in an attempt to punish Repub­lican voters for cast­ing their ballots in favor of their preferred Repub­lican candid­ates.

On August 24, 2016, the panel denied the state defend­ants’ motion to dismiss in a 2–1 decision, hold­ing that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged a claim that they had been disfavored and punished for exer­cising their First Amend­ment rights. The parties are now proceed­ing with discov­ery, with a trial in the case expec­ted in late summer or early fall 2017.

Key plead­ings for Benisek v. Lamone can be found here.


Harris v. Cooper 

United States Supreme Court (No. 16–166)


Common Cause v. Rucho

United States District Court for the Middle District of North Caro­lina (No. 1:16-CV-1026)


League of Women Voters v. Rucho

United States District Court for the Middle District of North Caro­lina (No. 1:16-CV-1164)

Race and polit­ics collided in North Caro­lina this cycle, present­ing courts with both racial and partisan gerry­man­der­ing claims.

On Octo­ber 24, 2013, plaintiffs in Harris v. McCrory filed suit alleging that North Caro­lina packed African-Amer­ican voters into the 1st and 12th Congres­sional Districts when it redrew its congres­sional district lines in 2011. The district lines, they argued, diluted African-Amer­ican voting power and viol­ated the Equal Protec­tion Clause of the Four­teenth Amend­ment. In early Febru­ary, the three-judge panel agreed and struck down the state’s congres­sional map as an uncon­sti­tu­tional racial gerry­mander.

After the ruling, the state defend­ants appealed. Mean­while, the North Caro­lina legis­lature held an emer­gency special session where it redrew the map. However, in redraw­ing maps, legis­lat­ive lead­ers adop­ted rules that required proposed maps to main­tain the state’s partisan balance of 10 Repub­lican and 3 Demo­cratic seats. A key legis­lat­ive leader stated on the floor that, “I acknow­ledge freely that this would be a polit­ical gerry­mander, which is not against the law.” The chal­lengers filed objec­tions to the remedial plan claim­ing the new map was doubly defect­ive. Not only did the legis­lature fail to fix the defi­cien­cies with the original map, they argued, but it also added an uncon­sti­tu­tional partisan gerry­mander to the still-exist­ing racial gerry­mander.

The court denied the plaintiffs’ objec­tions on June 2, 2016. In the short eight-page opin­ion, the court said its “hands appear to be tied” given the lack of a judi­cially manage­ment stand­ard to eval­u­ate partisan gerry­man­der­ing claims. However, the court emphas­ized that its ruling was not an endorse­ment of, nor does it prevent further chal­lenges to, the state’s remedial plan.

The plaintiffs have appealed the district court’s ruling on the 2016 remedial map to the Supreme Court. The Court is expec­ted to decide some time before June whether to accept the case for argu­ment. It is possible, however, that the Court will delay any decision or action on the partisan gerry­man­der­ing claims in Harris until it has decided the state defend­ants’ racial gerry­man­der­ing appeal.

In the mean­time, Common Cause and the League of Women Voters have filed suits in district court also chal­len­ging the consti­tu­tion­al­ity of the 2016 remedial plan. Both cases have been consol­id­ated and the trial is sched­uled to begin on June 26, 2017. 

Key plead­ings for Harris v. Cooper can be found here.

Key plead­ings for Common Cause v. Rucho can be found here.

Key plead­ings for the League of Women Voters v. Rucho can be found here.