Supreme Court could hand down landmark decision based on WI case soon

A decision that could greatly affect voters is expected to be handed down by the Supreme Court any day now. The gerrymandering case stems from the 2011 Republican-led redistricting of Wisconsin that Democrats argue caused voter discrimination based on their political affiliation.

People might be more familiar with racial gerrymandering, where districts were redrawn to systemically weaken black or Latino votes. This would be the first time the court rules on politically motivated redistricting, setting a legal precedent for the future.

Gerrymandering is nothing new.

“It’s been going on for maybe centuries,” said Joe Heim, a political analyst.

But now technology allows the party in power to redistrict with incredible accuracy.

“The commonly used phrase is it allows legislators to pick their voters rather than the voters picking their legislators,” Heim said.

What it comes down to is the “efficiency gap.” It’s when a party takes certain voters they don’t need to win in one district known as “wasted votes” and puts them in another that they might otherwise lose.

“You pack em into one district, then you divide the rest of them into different districts. You can, in fact, take a lot more districts,” Heim explained.

In the Whitford v Gill case, Democrats argue after the GOP redistricting in 2011, they garnered 54 percent of the votes across the state. But, they only had 39 out of 99 seats in the assembly.

“Politics have become much too partisan and this map that was drawn up by the Republican Party is just an extreme example of hyper-partisanship,” said Michael Smuksta, co-chair of the La Crosse County Democratic Party.

Bill Feehan, chairman of the La Crosse County Republican Party, believes the argument over the number of votes doesn’t quite add up.

“When Donald Trump wins 59 out of 72 counties in the state, it’s obvious that there are going to be more Republican districts in the Assembly and in state Senate,” Feehan said.

Feehan said creating an outside group to oversee the process would need a constitutional amendment vote and it still wouldn’t be a good solution.

“Everybody has their political leanings. And so it’s just not going to happen that we’re going to create a board of people that’s nonpartisan,” Feehan said.

The La Crosse County Democratic Party is in favor of creating this type of group similar to ones in other states.

“People have input into it and the legislatures have less of an influence on those maps that are drawn. And so it makes the situation more competitive,” Smuksta said.