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Gill v. Whitford

A group of Wisconsin residents challenged a 2011 state assembly redistricting plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Published: July 3, 2019

View our extens­ive cover­age of
Gerry­man­der­ing at the Supreme Court.

Case Back­ground

In Novem­ber 2016, the panel declared that the state house plan adop­ted by Wiscon­sin’s Repub­lican-controlled legis­lature in 2011 was an uncon­sti­tu­tional partisan gerry­mander that viol­ated both the Equal Protec­tion Clause and the plaintiffs’ First Amend­ment free­dom of asso­ci­ation. The ruling was the first time in over three decades that a federal court inval­id­ated a redis­trict­ing plan for partisan bias.

After eval­u­at­ing the consti­tu­tion­al­ity of the map with a three-part test, the panel concluded that the map displayed both bad intent and bad effect, citing evid­ence that the map draw­ers used special partisan meas­ure­ments to ensure that the map maxim­ized Repub­lican advant­ages in assembly seats. Despite Demo­crats winning a major­ity of the statewide Assembly vote in 2012 and 2014, Repub­lic­ans won sixty of the ninety-nine Assembly seats. Wiscon­sin Repub­lic­ans dispute the asser­tion that they inten­tion­ally engin­eered a biased map, arguing that partisan skews in the map reflect a natural geographic advant­age they have in redis­trict­ing as a result of Demo­crats clus­ter­ing in cities while Repub­lic­ans are spread out more evenly through­out the state. The court, however, said the state’s natural polit­ical geography “does not explain adequately the size­able dispar­ate effect” seen in the previ­ous two elec­tion cycles.

Wiscon­sin filed an appeal on Febru­ary 24, 2017, asking the Supreme Court to review the decision strik­ing down the map. On June 18, the Court dismissed the case for lack of stand­ing and remanded the case to the district court for further proceed­ings. On remand, the district court permit­ted the Wiscon­sin State Assembly to inter­vene as defend­ants in the case.

On Janu­ary 23, 2019, the court gran­ted in part the State Assembly’s motion to stay the case, post­pon­ing trial until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on partisan gerry­man­der­ing appeals from North Caro­lina and Mary­land on June 27, 2019. The Supreme Court’s opin­ion in those cases held that partisan gerry­man­der­ing claims are nonjus­ti­ciable. On July 2, 2019, the court dismissed the case.

Docu­ments

District Court (2015–2017)

U.S. Supreme Court (2017–2018)

Juris­dic­tional Stage

Amicus Briefs in Support of Appel­lants’ Juris­dic­tional State­ment

Merits Stage

Amicus Briefs in Support of Appel­lants 

Amicus Briefs in Support of Neither Party 

Amicus Briefs in Support of Appellees 

District Court (2018Present)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit