By Joe Bachman, Stevens Point News
WASHINGTON/STEVENS POINT — Today, the Supreme Court skirted a decision in the Gill v. Whitford redistricting case, which relates directly to alleged unconstitutional gerrymandering in Wisconsin.
In 2016, a Federal panel decided that in 2012 and 2014, Republicans purposely redrew district maps in their favor to hinder Democrats, a practiced deemed unconstitutional by court officials.
“We find that the discriminatory effect is not explained by the political geography of Wisconsin nor is it justified by a legitimate state interest” explained the court in its 2016 ruling.
However, today, Supreme Court officials ruled that the challenged maps will remain in place, but referred the issue to lower courts. According to a press release by Rep. Katrina Shankland, the court ruled that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate the individual and personal injury necessary for standing in court.
In response, State Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) released the following statement:
“While I’m disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court has chosen to sidestep the gerrymandering issue, I am heartened that this high-profile case has created public pressure to pass fair maps and end partisan gerrymandering once and for all. I thank the plaintiffs for bringing the case and look forward to the federal court’s decision in the future.
“With fall elections approaching in just a few months, every Wisconsin voter deserves certainty that their vote will count as much as their neighbor’s and that their legislators are elected to truly represent them. Anything short undermines the integrity of our voting process, the very cornerstone of our democracy.
“As the Gill v. Whitford case continues, the most critical priority that the legislature must focus on is instituting fair and impartial nonpartisan redistricting reform. Politics must be removed from the redistricting process so that no political party can twist and bend legislative boundaries to rig the game in their favor. The best part is, no court decision is necessary for nonpartisan redistricting reform – just political courage from the other side of the aisle. Voters should choose their elected representatives, not the other way around.”
The vote was unanimous for dismissing the case entirely, though the vote came in 7-2 regarding the decision to send the case back to lower courts for further consideration. Court officials also skirted a decision in a similar case for Maryland partisan gerrymandering.
Justice Elena Kagan expressed similar sentiment in her writings to the court, as she believes that extreme partisan gerrymandering should be addressed in future cases.
“Courts — and in particular this court — will again be called on to redress extreme partisan gerrymanders,” wrote Kagan, “I am hopeful we will then step up to our responsibility to vindicate the Constitution against a contrary law.”
Attorney General Brad Schimel applauded the decision, and released his own statement:
“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 win for the rule of law in Wisconsin, and a testament to the talented attorneys at the Wisconsin Department of Justice.”
Candidate for Wisconsin Governor Mahlon Mitchell also responded to the decision:
“For the past 8 years, our state has been led by a governor who seeks to undermine the democratic process by making it harder for people to fairly exercise their right to vote. The bottom line is restricting voting rights and partisan gerrymandering is institutional discrimination. Voters should elect their politicians, politicians should not select their voters.
As governor I will continue the fight for fair maps and support the basic tenet of our democracy – that the more people who vote, the better.”
Proceedings are expected to continue in lower courts in Wisconsin.