U.S. Supreme Court will hear Wisconsin legislative redistricting - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

U.S. Supreme Court will hear Wisconsin legislative redistricting case

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether a lower court ruled correctly that Wisconsin's legislative district map is unconstitutional, and granted a stay of that lower court's order that required Assembly Republicans to draw new district lines this year.

The justices are expected to hear arguments on Gill. v. Whitford when the next Supreme Court term begins in October. 

"I am thrilled the Supreme Court has granted our request to review the redistricting decision and that Wisconsin will have an opportunity to defend its redistricting process," wrote Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel in a statement. "As I have said before, our redistricting process was entirely lawful and constitutional, and the district court should be reversed."

Schimel appealed a November 2016 ruling by a federal three-judge panel in the U.S. 7th Circuit District Court that found Wisconsin's current State Assembly map to be unconstitutional on a 2-1 decision.

The district court judges ruled the current maps favor Republican candidates to the point where twelve Democratic plaintiffs who filed a 2015 lawsuit are being deprived of their constitutional rights by having to cast "wasted ballots."

Because Wisconsin Senate districts are comprised of multiple Assembly districts, they are also considered unconstitutional under the lower court ruling.

In January 2017, the three-judge panel ordered Wisconsin Assembly Republican leaders to draw a new map by November 1.

But in a 5-4 ruling issued Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed to stay that order, allowing the current map to remain while the case is on appeal.

"We are disappointed in today's decision to stay the trial court interim remedy order, but we are still confident that the verdict will be upheld. In the recently concluded Covington case, the interim order was stayed, yet in the end, the plaintiffs won unanimously on the merits. We hope the Whitford case moves quickly so the maps can still be redrawn in time for a fair election to be held in 2018," wrote Sachin Cheda, spokesperson for the Fair Elections Project, which organized and launched the lawsuit.

AG Schimel calls the stay an important and positive step in the appeals process.

”The stay is particularly important because it preserves the Legislature’s time, effort, and resources while this case is pending," wrote AG Schimel. "In our stay application, I argued that requiring the Legislature to re-draw district maps this year would have been a waste of resources. I also argued that it was likely that the lower court’s decision would be eventually overturned. I am pleased that the Court granted our request on this important issue.”

If the justices uphold the lower court ruling, the "efficiency gap" model used by the plaintiffs in this case could applied to legislative and congressional district maps in all 50 states.

The plaintiff's attorneys used that model to successfully argue their clients votes were wasted due to the way the legislative districts were drawn.

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