By Tim Kowols
Proponents of redistricting reform in Wisconsin will have to wait a bit longer following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Monday. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the nation’s high court ruled 7-2 that the Democratic plaintiffs did not bring proper standing to the Gill vs. Whitford case and that more concrete examples of the election map’s negative effects have to be presented. Common Cause Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck calls the decision “unsatisfying,” but vows to keep up the fight against partisan gerrymandering.
While Monday’s decision avoids cases in Wisconsin and Maryland, Heck says rulings on election maps in North Carolina and elsewhere could still have an impact on gerrymandering across the country.
COMMENTS FROM ELECTED OFFICIALS
Statement from Senator Hansen: “The court’s decision shows just how much work needs to be done to restore fairness to our elections. It is time for legislators from both parties to come together and pass a real non-partisan redistricting law that will take the responsibility for drawing legislative district boundaries out of the hands of the politicians in Madison and replace it with one that gives the voters a voice in the process and at the ballot box. We already know that non-partisan redistricting can work because we’ve seen it in action in states as close as Iowa, which our plan is modeled after. Non-partisan redistricting not only takes the politics out of the map-drawing process, it does far more than our current system to ensure open, fair and competitive elections. I intend to re-introduce our Fair Maps redistricting plan as soon as I am able to when the Legislature convenes in January.”
Attorney General Brad Schimel issued the following statement in response: “I am pleased that the highest court in the land has unanimously reversed the trial court’s erroneous decision invalidating Wisconsin’s Assembly map. Today is a win for the rule of law in Wisconsin, and a testament to the talented attorneys at the Wisconsin Department of Justice.”
Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) released the following statement following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the redistricting case. “We are pleased with the unanimous opinion from the U.S Supreme Court. We have been confident throughout this process that the court would rule in our favor. Democrats have been using the maps as an excuse for their failure to connect with Wisconsin voters. We believe the redistricting process we undertook seven years ago fulfilled our constitutional duty, and followed all applicable laws and standards that are required in redistricting. We are confident with the U.S. Supreme Court guidance, the lower court will find the Democrat activists’ case is without merit.”
In response to the ruling, Representative Peter Barca (Kenosha/Racine) issued the following statement: “The decision by the Supreme Court today is a partial victory in many ways. While certainly not a landmark, precedent-setting ruling, it leaves the door open and shows the pathway forward, especially through the concurring opinion written by Justice Kagan and joined by three others. The Court did not rule on the actual merits of this case and thankfully they rejected the extreme decision by Justice Thomas and Gorsuch to dismiss this case. Instead, it ruled on a narrow and more technical matter and sent the case back to the Federal District Court to be considered further. By offering the decision it did and by not rejecting the case based on the arguments presented, the seven justices signaled true willingness to make a more robust ruling on this issue in the future. The majority of the Court rejected the more extreme views of Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, and the vast majority of justices appear to make clear that they are open to finding extreme partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional. After seven long years of watching our democracy being undermined and living under heavily distorted maps, the people of Wisconsin know all too well the harm caused when politicians draw maps in their own favor. No matter what their individual political ideologies or values may be, voters win when they can select their representatives, rather than the other way around. It says ‘the will of the people shall be the law of the land’ inside our State Capitol. The decision today does not yet accomplish that goal, but it shows the way to accomplish it.”