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Plaintiffs in Wisconsin's redistricting suit ask judges to consider election results
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Plaintiffs in Wisconsin's redistricting suit ask judges to consider election results

Gerrymander map

This map, among the exhibits submitted with a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's 2011 legislative map, shows the differences in legislative districts and representation under different scenarios, including a plan proposed in the lawsuit applied to 2012 election results.

A group of Democratic voters seeking to overturn Wisconsin's assembly district maps are asking a panel of federal judges to consider results from last week's election. 

The 12 plaintiffs in the redistricting lawsuit are asking to update their case with results from the 2016 state Assembly races, according to a court motion filed Monday by their attorney Douglas Poland. The lead plaintiff is Bill Whitford, a retired University of Wisconsin Law School professor.

The group plans to submit their calculations from results using a model on Dec. 2, after official election results are set to be confirmed by the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Dec. 1, according to the filing. 

"Initial examination of preliminary 2016 election results suggests that the Current Plan’s efficiency gap has, in fact, continued to be large and pro-Republican," wrote Poland.

The plaintiffs said the election results further prove their case that Wisconsin's maps are unconstitutional, drawn specifically to disadvantage Democrats. They are asking the state's maps to be overturned and new ones to be drawn. 

The state Department of Justice, which is representing the state in defending the maps, plans to file a brief opposing the motion, said Johnny Koremenos, a spokesman for the agency.

Wisconsin's current maps were drawn in 2011 when Republicans took control of both chambers in the Legislature. State governments are directed to update their district maps every 10 years following the U.S. Census. 

Arguments in the case wrapped up in federal court in Madison in May. A three-judge panel was expected to issue a ruling around August, but have not decided on the case yet. 

The plaintiff's case rests on a model they say quantitatively tests partisan bias in the maps that, if accepted, could be a national model for judging the fairness of state voting districts. The model, called the "efficiency gap," is a mathematical formula that analyzes the difference between political parties’ respective wasted votes in an election. 

Ruth Greenwood, deputy director of redistricting with the Campaign Legal Center, a D.C.-based law group advocating for the maps to be overturned, said preliminary election results prove that the efficiency gap model is accurate.

"It shows that it's an extreme partisan gerrymandering," she said, adding that the 2016 election puts Wisconsin as one of the worst gerrymandered states in the country.  

"When Republicans drew the plan they drew it so it didn’t matter how the votes shifted," she said. "Even in this year where the pollsters did not predict the election outcomes, our evidence from trial still holds: that is, the 2011 Republican gerrymander was drawn to survive plausible shifts in the vote, and it has in fact stayed a large gerrymander." 

At trial in May, Judge William Griesbach noted that the election results would be interesting. 

"This is a very interesting year. It will be interesting to see what happens," he said. "This may be throwing everything out the window as they say."

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Katelyn Ferral is The Cap Times' public affairs and investigative reporter. She joined the paper in 2015 and previously covered the energy industry for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. She's also covered state politics and government in North Carolina.

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