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Leaders in the fight against gerrymandering visit the NorthwoodsSubmitted: 03/05/2017

Dakota Sherek
Reporter/Anchor
dsherek@wjfw.com


WOODRUFF - A legal battle in Wisconsin will travel to the Supreme Court.

A political group, the Northwoods Progressives, invited two people involved in an upcoming Supreme Court case about gerrymandering to Woodruff Saturday.


"This case has gotten a lot of nationwide attention," said Bill Whitford, a retired University of Wisconsin law professor.

Whitford is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's district maps. He and one of his lawyers, Doug Poland, visited the Northwoods to talk about the case.

"I'd like to talk about the lawsuit so that people will understand the principals that are at stake and why regardless of whether you're Republican or you're a Democrat or you're an independent you should care about this issue," said Poland.

Whitford and his legal team argued that district lines drawn in 2011 were unconstitutional. A federal panel of judges ruled last November in Whitford's favor.

"This is really only the second time that litigants at a partisan gerrymandering claim have actually won at a trial level," said Poland.

Gerrymandering refers to a political party manipulating district boundaries in its favor. That manipulation guarantees that party more seats in the legislature regardless of the amount of votes the party gets statewide.

Gerrymandering doesn't get tried often because districts are usually only redrawn every ten years after a census. Poland says this issue is particularly important in Wisconsin.

"As we've seen our legislature become essentially dominated by one party that has entrenched themselves in power and made it impossible for anyone other than that particular party to have a majority in the state legislature," said Poland.

The federal ruling gave Wisconsin's legislature until November of this year to create new districts.
The state filed an appeal in February, taking the case to the Supreme Court.

"If we are successful in the Supreme Court and if the trial court approves the new apportionment the legislature drafts that'll be the apportionment into which the 2018 legislative elections are fought," said Whitford.

Pam Taylor, from Hazelhurst, went to the event to learn more about gerrymandering. She was encouraged to see such a big crowd.

"It is easy maybe particularly up north to be isolated and not know that there are so many other members of your community that feel this is important too," said Taylor.

Poland is hopeful that the Supreme Court ruling will help not just Wisconsin, but the whole country.

"We're excited about the possibility that the result we receive in this case in federal court in Madison will potentially be the law that applies in the entire United States," said Poland.

It is uncertain when exactly the case will be brought to the Supreme Court.


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