The Fight Against Gerrymandering

Urban Milwaukee

The problem is obvious: Wisconsin is one of the most gerrymandered states in America. A national analysis of all states finds that Republicans will win 12.1 percent more Assembly seats if each party wins 50 percent of the vote statewide, which makes it one of the worst examples of gerrymandering. 

Is there a solution? One remedy is the Iowa plan, adopted nearly unanimously in 1980 when Republicans held control in both houses of the legislature. Both parties feared the other might gain the upper hand in future redistricting efforts, so they supported a plan whereby the non-partisan staff of the Legislative Services Agency (similar to this state’s non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau) would draw up the districts.

But the team of lawyers working with Democrats to overturn Wisconsin’s gerrymandering are not deterred and are working on re-filing the case. One of those is Ruth Greenwood of the Campaign Legal Center in Chicago. Greenwood is “the Australian lawyer trying to fix the US electoral system,” as a fun story in the Sydney Morning Herald declared.

Greenwood notes the decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts was 7-2 in favor of allowing her group of plaintiffs to refile the case if they could prove their clients had standing — meaning they had been personally harmed by the gerrymander. “The judgment was written by Roberts and he gave very specific instructions on how to prove standing” or “concrete and particularized harm to the plaintiffs,” she notes. And her group has followed this to the letter, she says, identifying 40 plaintiffs in 27 Wisconsin Assembly districts that were obviously gerrymandered. And if those districts fall afoul of the law, the entire state would likely need to be redistricted

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