Finally – A Federal Court Finds Partisan Gerrymandering Unconstitutional

November 22, 2016 By: El Jefe Category: gerrymandering

In a 2-to-1 ruling by the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin said that the Legislature’s remapping in 2011 violated both the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it aimed to deprive Democratic voters of their right to be represented.  Finally, a court has been brave enough to take on gerrymandering, and Wisconsin was a good place to start.

The court used a simple mathematical calculation to measure gerrymandering called the “efficiency gap”, essentially a measure of wasted votes.  The gap is calculated by dividing the difference between the two parties’ “wasted votes”; that is, votes beyond those needed by a winning side, and votes cast by a losing side — by the total number of votes cast. As the efficiency gap rises for the winning party (i.e. the winning party wastes fewer votes) the level of partisan gerrymandering can be calculated.  The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law has a good explanation here.  Typically, if the winning party’s efficiency gap rises above 7%, the chance of them maintaining their majority increases.

After the partisan gerrymander in 2011, Wisconsin Republicans had a 11 percent to almost 14% efficiency gap advantage over Democrats.  The result? In 2012, the Wisconsin Republicans received 48.6% of the votes for the Assembly, but won 61% of the seats.  Partisan gerrymandering thwarts the will of the voters, allowing unpopular politicians with less support to beat those candidates who actually receive more votes.

This is the actual voter fraud perpetrated on the people by Republicans since 2000 even though the Republicans use the dog whistle of accusing dark skinned people of committing in person voter fraud which has been proven to be virtually non-existent.  To be fair, the Dems are not blameless in gerrymandering either, and I advocate for immediate reform with the establishment of non-partisan redistricting boards in each state using computer modeling with the goal of making the vast majority of state and federal races competitive.  With today’s gerrymandering, only about 10% of districts are competitive.  That’s unconstitutional, and un-American.

It’s long past time for this to change.  A SCOTUS win on this issue is history changing.

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18 Comments to “Finally – A Federal Court Finds Partisan Gerrymandering Unconstitutional”

  1. JAKvirginia says:

    The importance of this cannot be overstated. This court has set precedence and their findings and reasonings will be used by other plaintiffs and courts. It’s not theoretical anymore — cause and effect rears it’s ugly head. Good.

  2. e platypus onion says:

    Read this yesterday at Madison Capital Times Opinions. Wisconsin wingnuts haven’t been at all shy about taking liberties because they have the guv, the house and senate and a solid right wing nutjob majority on the supreme court so they can push koch bros agenda through with little opposition. You will see similar results when Drumpf gets ahold of the WH and wingnuts control everything else.

  3. I remember Gerry Mander and the Wingnuts. Didn’t they have a hit song in the 60’s called “Ferry Cross The Mercy?”

  4. Okay, I’m fully aware that this does not belong here any more than the Cheetoh-faced Ferret-wearing Shitgibbon Cocksplat belongs in the White House. However, this is a real thing that you need to know. I’m serious! Take a look.

  5. “A SCOTUS win on this issue is history changing.”

    and there be the rub. with Trump in the oval office (there will be no 9th justice seated until after the inauguration, bet on it), and a republican congress, this ruling will not stand USSC scrutiny, by a 5-4 decision.

    bet the rent money on it.

  6. “In 2012, Republicans got 48.6 percent of the statewide vote, but got 60 seats in the 99-seat assembly, and in 2014 got 52 percent of the vote and 63 Assembly seats. Democrats in 2012 received 51.4 percent of the vote and only 39 Assembly seats, and 36 seats when they received 48 percent of the vote in 2014.”

    I defy any Republican to explain how that is consistent with democracy.

    Maryland is gerrymandered for Democrats– it may be the only state that is. I voted against accepting the current map, but it passed anyway. It’s not easy to say that we should stop cheating when they won’t stop cheating in numerous states. There was some talk of making a pact with VA to de-gerrymander both states, but nothing came of it.

    And yes, cpinva, I don’t expect a ban to survive SCOTUS after Trump gets his little fingers on it.

    (I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but isn’t there a character called Littlefinger who’s a scheming shite? Reminds me of someone, though much more intelligent.)

  7. There is a little hope in the Supreme Court, because the plaintiffs lawyers pretty much wrote their case based on a Justice Kennedy opinion that described what illegal gerrymandering might look like. Here’s hoping Justice Kennedy still sees it that way.

  8. screecherguy says:

    Don’t get used to it. On the Wisconsin Federal Court ruling, the new Trump supreme court will overrule it.

  9. This was a 2-1 district court decision making new law. It is no slam dunk in the Eighth Circuit. Unless it prevails there, Supreme Court review is near to pointless. I find it boundlessly unamusing that the strict constructionists can invent an original intention in the Fourteenth Amendment (that was crammed down the South’s throat as a cost of being readmitted to the United States) to give personhood to corporations, but not protect the broad sanctity of voting for all citizens. Originalism is so original.

  10. Minnesota uses a board of retired judges to draw districts. Both political parties, ethnic groups and any particular interest groups can submit a version of the districts for the consideration of the judges. They make the final decision.

    I’m all in favor of a computer algorithm to draw districts.

  11. e platypus onion says:

    It might be hard when you discover
    your candidate ‘s been dismissed for another
    just remember politics is a game
    and it will always come back again
    so, don’t let the sun catch you crying

    Another GerryMander and the Wingnuts hit

    (Gerry and the Pacemakers)

  12. e platypus onion says:

    Debbo-algorithms? Sounds kinky, Is it a form of birth control?Algorithm method. I could go with that.

    For the record wingnuts are redefining Potus to suit Drumpf’s greed. That beautiful black feller in the WH has been totally selfless, as all Potii must be. Drumpf is totally selfish and hasn’t been sworn in, yet. I will certainly swear if he lasts long enough to get sworn in.

    I sent my senior sinator an email demanding investigations into Russian and FBI interference into our election. I reminded him, since Grassley is chair of the judicial committee of his statement to let the people pick the next justice for the Scotus. I also reminded him that HRC is 2 million popular votes ahead of the mangled apricot hellbeast and asked when HRC gets to pick the justice,
    One more thing, I said since Russia is inserted into our election, I wanted an investigation into iowa’s junior sinator Ernst. I suggested she may be a spy because she was a KGB agent named Ivana Kuturnutzov. Haven’t heard back from him or his office yet.

  13. Boy do I hate the word “gerry mander”. (I wish Elbridge Gerry had died as a child.)

    Voting districts will always be drawn to the advantage of one group over another group. In Texas I recall when we drew boundaries in order to create “safe” districts in order that a black congressvarmint would be elected. Not all gerrymandering is bad, unless it is.

    If you drew squarish districts based strictly on population density you would likely get a similar result over time. There is not easy answer and the founders probably frabbed up when they wrote Article I, Section 2, clause 3. This along with the specifics of the previously mentioned 14th Amendment and the greed of advantage takers like Tom Delay get us where we are today. Liberals and Conservatives do this, please don’t kid yourselves. if I drew districts for Texas, just out of pure spite, there would be a district about 100 yards wide and it would roughly follow I45/US75 from Galveston to Denison. Represent THAT!

    BTW there is a gerrymadering website which I found during the evening of November 8. It only works on IE so I can’t play with it at home, but if you have IE you can play with it at

    The author has some “interesting” statistical readings related to gerrymandering.

    And yes, “Originalism is so original.”

  14. Math? The WI court was right on. However, there are pure math pushers out there who will prove to you with the same numbers that the court’s solution is incorrect. This is one of the reasons why I don’t trust math and never will. I’ve seen grown people come to blows over an equation and the results. The 2 plus 2 equals 4 proponents get taken on by the 2 plus 2 equals minus 4 adherents. And remember, math writes computer talk! Hence I can just see the presentation before SCOTUS between the WI court findings and the “purists”. Supreme Court judges are not that much better at math than the average person. Their decision will be based on who made their heads ache less.

  15. Polite Kool Marxist says:

    Debbo, marital experience tells me that ‘mansplaining anything to Jane is a bad idea. So I’ll refrain from sharing the science of that recipe with her. However, should we ever have BLOTUS over for dinner, that is the perfect recipe.

    maggie, “Their decision will be based on who made their heads ache less.” Thought that was how all conservative judges ruled.

    El Jefe, the 14th Amendment has always been my favorite. With the corporate media, it’s difficult to be all that excited about the 1st. As for the 2nd, too many reasons to not worry about that one. But the 14th, yes sir, equality that’s something to warm the heart and brain cells. And, nothing says “equality” better than a democracy with equal voting practices.

  16. e platypus onion says:

    What’s with all the cocks this and cocks that. Can’t a guy have any privacy around here?

    As for de-spining, how I long for the day when they can do that to onion and his aching back. You know I luv you Debbo, but really, you need to let the cocks go, kay?

  17. So, for the first time this decade, the people in one state out of 50 might, maybe, perhaps, be properly represented. Eight years after the census was taken and just in time for the NEXT CENSUS and the NEXT set of gerrymandered results.

    Say it with me now — in the same sarcastic tone used during the past eight years when declaring, “Thank’s Obama”:

    Thanks Court.

  18. @ Debbo & epo:
    Here’s another I read about years ago:

    Mix up several cups full of chicken or turkey bullion and pour it into the roasting pan.
    Place turkey, breast down, into the pan and stick it in the oven.
    No need to baste. Just pull it out and serve at the appointed time.

    Now I have to admit to all assembled here — cooking is against my religion. So I’ve never tried it. Thus I cannot attest to the method’s efficacy.
    But here are the physics as explained to me lo, those many years ago:
    1] the bullion soaks into the breast from below — which is, as we all know, the driest part of the bird
    2] meanwhile the fat from the legs and backs is dripping into the breast from above.

    So it SEEMS to this non-cook as if it would do a bang-up job on that turkey. But then – what do I know?