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Federal Court Rejects ‘Unconstitutional’ Wisconsin District Lines

Federal Court Rejects ‘Unconstitutional’ Wisconsin District Lines

The judges said the redistricting “constitutes an unconstitutional political gerrymander.”

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Wisconsin’s redrawn district lines, stating the moves favored the Republicans and violated the Democrats’ constitutional rights. The ruling also provides a new argument to change district lines “by finding Republicans intentionally discriminated against voters of a certain party, rather than voters of a certain race.”

The Los Angeles Times reported:

The judges said GOP leaders had drawn districts for the Legislature after the last census with the aim of preserving their majority for a decade almost regardless of what voters had to say. Republicans had control of the both houses of the state Legislature, and Gov. Scott Walker signed their election map into law.

“We conclude that the evidence establishes that one of the purposes (of the state map) was to secure Republican control of the Assembly under any likely future electoral scenario for the remainder of the decade, in other words to entrench the Republican Party in power,” wrote Judge Kenneth Ripple.

The judges said the redistricting “constitutes an unconstitutional political gerrymander.”

The Supreme Court automatically receives cases about redistricting. However, if the top court ends in a tie the lower court’s ruling will stand. The court has not yet decided what “constitutes unconstitutional gerrymandering,” but no doubt this case will get the ball rolling:

Some experts said the efficiency gap gives gerrymandering opponents their most promising chance yet to persuade a majority of the Supreme Court to limit partisan redistricting.

“It does almost exactly what Justice Kennedy said he was looking for back in the ’80s, a clear threshold for deciding what is acceptable,” said Barry C. Burden, the director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Twelve Democrat voters sued the state, claiming that “GOP consultants had used software programs to draw an electoral map that ensured Republicans would win a majority of the seats, regardless of how the state’s voters split.”

The judges did not tell officials how they must redraw the lines, but gave them “45 days to come up with a proposed solution to the district lines.”

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel plans to appeal the decision:

“This 2-1 decision does not affect the results of this month’s election or any prior election and legislative district boundaries remain unchanged until the court rules on any remedy,” Schimel said in a statement released by his office.

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Well, d’uh.

Because populations aren’t distributed evenly throughout a state, districts can’t be laid out on a simple Cartesian map grid. Somebody has to determine them. Customarily we have the current dominant party figure it out.

This has the advantage of stability; the party in power tends to stay in power.

It also has a disadvantage; the party in power tends to stay in power.

If you think stability is good, the present system isn’t too bad.

If you’d prefer the parties to alternate every election, then having the party not in power determine the districts might seem a good idea.

I’m not aware that the Constitution has much to say about it either way. Perhaps it’s an emanation of a penumbra.

Well. If the Supreme Court upholds this ruling it means that the vast majority of districts in the country are also constitutional. Somehow I don’t think that will happen.

Politics is unconstitutional? Of course they”discriminated” against a party. That’s politics.

Something tells me that Democrat gerrymandering in the redrawing of districts is just fine – and been going on for years.

“We conclude that the evidence establishes that one of the purposes (of the state map) was to secure Republican control of the Assembly under any likely future electoral scenario for the remainder of the decade, in other words to entrench the Republican Party in power,” wrote Judge Kenneth Ripple.

Left unaddressed in this ruling: How Democrat-led gerrymandering to ensure continued Democrat control of the Assembly in the past was just peachy.

Political parties have constitutional rights? Which invisible penumbra does that emanate from? Or is it from the invisible ink between the lines? And if they have rights, how do we ensure there’s a libertarian congresscritter elected?

    Aarradin in reply to gospace. | November 23, 2016 at 2:48 am

    Political Parties are corporations.

    Corporations have all the Constitutional Rights of an individual. Which, of course, is the reason why corporations are formed.

    1 U.S. Code § 1 (the “definitions act” which applies to every law ever written, unless that law specifically makes an exception)

    “the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals;”

Which is subordinate… racial make-up or political make-up to determine districts? Racial gerrymandering to boost minority “representation” boosts political affiliation. Somehow I see this going just one way…..

With software it would be trivial to draw the lines so that you have a minimal perimeter. I think you could evoke a bit of game theory. Both parties submit plans, and the winner is chosen by a coin toss.

Preferably not Hillary’s coin.

This would have been a perfectly logical and just ruling, if it had come in 1812. Drawing districts so as to guarantee a particular outcome effectively negates elections, and is contrary to the Republican Guarantee clause. But there’s been 200 years of history since then, and what has been accepted for so long, by all sides, as the way things are done, can’t become suddenly unconstitutional at the ukase of some court. Especially since the Supreme Court ruled in the 1850s that the Republican Guarantee clause is not justiciable, and is up to the president and congress to enforce as they choose.

Quick!
Somebody grab the crayons!!
We got some serious Mapping to do!!!

Gerrymandering of voter districts is a very interesting subject. And, it both Constitutional and Unconstitutional, depending upon who is harmed.

Originally, the courts held that any district which was drawn in anything other than a standard geometric shape based strictly on numerical population, so as to benefit any particular group [usually racial], was unconstitutional. Then the courts decided that it was perfectly constitutional to draw a non-standard shape to guarantee that minority candidates would be elected.

Now, the Wisconsin districts may have been intentionally drawn in non-standard geometric shapes to dilute the voting power of Democrats while enhancing the voting power of Republicans. If such is the case, and the shape of the district varies too greatly from standard geometric shapes, without there being a geographic or population reason, then it is fair to say that such a district would be unconstitutional. We’ll just have to see what the decision and arguments from the SCOTUS are.

    Originally, the courts held that any district which was drawn in anything other than a standard geometric shape based strictly on numerical population, so as to benefit any particular group [usually racial], was unconstitutional.

    And thank God for that, because unless your entire district is drawn in perfect squares, this becomes unfeasible very quickly. Most places develop around topological features, which rarely fit neatly into “standard geometric shapes”.

    For the rest, I agree: if there’s not a topological/geographic reason for drawing the district lines the way they did, and if it’s intended solely to weaken one party over the other, it might be unconstitutional.

    However, I’d also point out that gerrymandering is a double-edged sword. The idea is basically to get rid of “purple” swing districts in favor of majority (one way or the other) red or blue ones, but it carries risks. Population demographics being equal, in order to get a Republican majority in the Assembly, you have to try and capture as many Democrat voters in as few districts as possible, which means those will be VERY strongly Democrat. At the same time, the new majority-Republican districts will go from “strong Republican” to “Republican-leaning”, as they have to allow existing Democrat voters to stay (unless you want to forcibly relocate the Democrat voters to Democrat districts — want to talk about unconstitutional actions now?).

    The result is some safe seats for Democrats, plus smaller margins of Republican victories over a broader area, which means a very small change in the voters’ party preference over that broad area could lead to a HUGE Democrat majority in the Assembly.

    Like I said. Risks.

This goes back to a Trump SCOTUS.
I’ve been thinking that Trump would delay his announcement to stop Obama from making a recess appointment.

Now the question is, how will Trump handle the appointment and if Obama does make a recess appointment, will a 5-4 vote on this at this point in time be a binding preceident ( with a lame duck appointment )?

Hm. If Ballotpedia is right, the 7th circuit court of appeals is *very* heavily weighted to Republican appointees, which makes me consider that perhaps their decision is more correct than I had first presumed.

https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Court_of_Appeals_for_the_Seventh_Circuit

Wasn’t Eric Holder supposed to run the DemonRats’ gerrymandering program after Hillary’s “win”.
Should be submitted as evidence that the Democrats support the constitutionality of gerrymandering.

“by finding Republicans intentionally discriminated against voters of a certain party”

If that’s the standard, then EVERY redistricting ever done by either Party has been “un-constitutional”.

More to the point – there’s precisely NOTHING in the Constitution that prevents this.

Bring back tar & feathers for “judges” like this, tyrannically impose their personal political preferences and usurping the legislative authority of the states.

So, some partisan hack in the throes of black robe fever says Democrats have a constitutional right not to lose.

Who knew?

This is the reason reid went nuclear. It was for obama to pack the courts.
It’s also the reason McConnell needs to go nuclear.

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