Wisconsin judge orders state GOP to redraw gerrymandered legislative districts

Court after court has made it clear: It's unconstitutional to redraw congressional districts for partisan reasons

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published January 30, 2017 10:45PM (EST)

    (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-130111p1.html'>Orhan Cam</a>,  <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-665446p1.html'>fpdress</a>via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>/Salon/Benjamin Wheelock)
(Orhan Cam, fpdressvia Shutterstock/Salon/Benjamin Wheelock)

A federal court issued a ruling on Friday that the Wisconsin Republican Party is sure to dislike — namely, ordering it to redraw its state legislative districts so they aren't gerrymandered to Republicans' advantage.

This was a follow-up to a ruling in November in which a federal court determined that Wisconsin had drawn up its districts so as to give Republicans a constant advantage in state elections, according to The Washington Post on Saturday. The Wisconsin GOP's actions were part of a larger national process in which Republican congressional leaders redrew nearly half of all congressional districts after the Republicans won 21 state legislatures during the 2010 midterm elections. As a result, even though Democratic state legislative candidates in Wisconsin received more votes than Republicans in the November 2016 elections, they only won 39 of that state's 99 districts. Republicans are planning to appeal Friday's decision to the Supreme Court.

This isn't the first time that a federal court has overturned a state's egregious gerrymandering. In November another federal court ordered North Carolina to redraw its legislative map and hold special elections this year, noting that it had committed a "racial gerrymander" that effectively disempowered the state's minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic.

The term "gerrymandering" was coined after former governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, who redrew his state's district lines in order to benefit the Democratic-Republican Party — and inadvertently created one district that looked like a salamander. Gerry later served as vice president under James Madison, who was the first notable American politician in the new republic to have to campaign in a district rigged against him by gerrymandering (although he wound up winning anyway).

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Gerrymandering Racism Republican Party