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Court Case

Gill v. Whitford

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

Published: July 3, 2019

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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 (2018-Present)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit