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SCOTUS Says It Will Hear Wisconsin Partisan Gerrymandering Case

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

Update 6/19/17: The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to issue a stay in Gill v. Whitford. This means until the justices rule on the case itself, the current electoral maps will stay in place.


The Supreme Court will decide if a lower federal court was right to find that Wisconsin's state Assembly maps violated the constitution on the basis of a partisan gerrymander.

The high court's decision to hear the case is a big deal. Up until November, federal courts largely shied away from these cases because the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 (Vieth v. Jubelirer) that there was no "measurable or judicial standard" to determine when electoral maps were "too partisan."

However, a federal three-judge panel in Gill v. Whitford used a method called the "efficiency gap" to determine that the Republican-controlled legislature redrew the state's maps to such an extreme partisan degree that even if Democrats voted in much greater numbers than Republicans, they would still only take about a third of the state's legislative seats.

Gill v. Whitford is the first time a federal court ruled that a state's maps were unconstitutional, not on the basis of race or sex or class discrimination, but because they were drawn with purely partisan motives. The court ruled that partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin was so severe that it violated voting rights.

The case inspired other legal challenges as well, such as a lawsuit recently filed in Pennsylvania.

Wisconsin officials asked the Supreme Court in May to stay the federal court's order that state lawmakers redraw the Assembly maps by November. According to, there has been no sign of action on this request yet by the Supreme Court.

Stay tuned for further coverage.

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