Gerrymandering Pays Off in Wisconsin

Posted by Drew Penrose on November 08, 2016

Results are coming in from Wisconsin, and they demonstrate how much Wisconsin stands as an example of the unfair partisan skew in congressional and legislative elections. The state remains closely divided. Nonetheless, Republicans will retain control both of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation (winning five of its eight districts) and of its state legislature.

Like most states, Wisconsin’s skew derives from geography. The average partisanship of its three Democratic-leaning districts is 64.8% Democratic, while the average partisanship of its five Republican-leaning districts is only 56.1% Republican, demonstrating how fewer Republican votes are wasted in safe districts than Democratic votes.

Although its districts are relatively compact, Wisconsin Republicans have been accused of intentionally gerrymandering the state: drawing district lines to exaggerate the partisan skew in favor of Republicans. In fact, plaintiffs supported by the Campaign Legal Center have sued Wisconsin arguing that its state legislative partisan gerrymandering is so demonstrably unfair as to be unconstitutional. That case, Whitford v. Gill, is awaiting a decision from a three-judge federal court panel, from which it will likely appeal directly to the United States Supreme Court. After the case went to trial, Rick Hasen of the Election Law Blog suggested that it may result in the Supreme Court finally striking down partisan gerrymandering as unconstitutional. Similar lawsuits are underway in North Carolina and Maryland.

For the Supreme Court to strike down a state’s partisan gerrymander would be a big change. However, it would not resolve the fundamental problem of unfair representation or lack of meaningful competition. FairVote’s model Fair Representation Act would put every voter in a meaningful contest and provide fair, accurate results that reflect what voters want in every state - and nationwide.

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