Supreme Court hears gerrymandering case stemming out of Wisconsi - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Supreme Court hears gerrymandering case stemming out of Wisconsin


Eau Claire (WQOW) - On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court is back at work, and justices are hearing arguments about a gerrymandering claim in Wisconsin. It could have big impacts on who you vote for moving forward.

The high court is digging into claims filed by people and groups, including Wendy Sue Johnson, of Eau Claire, saying state Republicans unconstitutionally drew district lines in 2011 to help them win elections in 2012 and the years to come.

Rodd Freitag, a professor at UW-Eau Claire, said the high court's decision could have major implications for elections across the country.

Gerrymandering has been around for about as long as politics, but Wisconsin's case has an unfamiliar twist.

"These are long standing practices. They're not brand new," Freitag said. "What is new is that with computers, with programs, you can be much more creative in drawing those lines."
That's exactly what Republicans did in 2011. For instance District 67, which includes most of Dunn County, does not include the big college city of Menomonie, where voters are more likely to lean left.

"Given the tools available to do redistricting, a majority party can now draw the lines in a way that they know with some certainty how many seats they're going to win, how strong their majority is going to be," Freitag said.

Democrats said that is unconstitutional, so some, including Johnson, spoke out in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. Will the court agree?

"This is a map that effectively determined, in advance, who was going to control the government of Wisconsin, the Assembly of Wisconsin, in advance, for a whole 10 years, regardless of how the people might decide to vote," said Paul Smith, attorney for the Democratic plaintiffs.

"Our legislature followed traditional redistricting criteria, which is what they've been required to do," Attorney General Brad Schimel said. "We believe we followed that and we think the justices will agree."

Freitag said it could take several months for the court's ruling to come down.

"If the remedy was to redraw district lines, that would have to happen very, very quickly because that takes time and that's one of the issues -- one of the things the court will have to sort out is what they think the proper remedy is," Freitag said.

If they rule in favor of the plaintiffs, it could mean we would see new district maps for the 2018 election, depending on when we get a ruling.

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