Wisconsin gerrymandering case hits US Supreme Court

By Daniel Keith, WAOW News 

WASHINGTON (WAOW) - All eyes are on Wisconsin Tuesday as the US Supreme Court is back in session and oral arguments were heard to see if the state's voting districts are legal.

The Supreme Court needs to decide whether assembly district maps in the Badger State favor Republicans, which essentially violates voters rights to a fair election.

"Partisan gerrymandering is something we've been doing [since] before the constitution was written," said Director of Political Science at UW-Stevens Point John Blakeman. "The court's probably split right down the middle."

Critics believe that the district maps from the 2010 census helps republicans win elections.

"Any state electoral map is going to favor one party over the other. Whether that violates the constitution or not is the big question," said Blakeman. "The Supreme Court tends to be very cautious."

Blakeman said states currently use an intricate system to design the districts.

"Very sophisticated computer software [that] relies on algorithms," he said. "Those computer programs can predict how elections are going to turn out."

 As the case rests in the hands of the nation's highest court, state representatives are weighing-in.

"You go down to Waukesha County, it's going to be hard to try and make it fair for Democrats. Just like going to Dane County, it's going to be hard to find Republicans," said Rep. Pat Snyder (R-85th Assembly). "You try to make it as fair as you can."

"Politicians, unfortunately, don't feel the pressure to represent their constituents when the maps are drawn to benefit them to get reelected," said Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-71st Assembly). "Basically, the electoral maps have been rigged."

As for the decision, Blakeman believes it could be close, perhaps leaning to a 5-4 decision in favor of the current district maps.

"Uphold the Wisconsin redistricting plan, but still leave the door open for other challenges in the future," he said.

Experts expect that with such a divisive case, the court will not hand down its ruling until next summer.

Even if ruled unconstitutional, Blakeman does not believe maps will be redrawn in time for the 2018 election.