A case that was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this week regarding gerrymandering in Wisconsin could be the most politically important case to go in front of that body this term, according to Professor Lumen “Lou” Mulligan. Mulligan is the Director of the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Center for Excellence in Advocacy at KU.
“From folks who are unhappy with the way lines are drawn in some states now, you often will hear people say, the elected officials choose their own voters,” said Mulligan. “The case in Wisconsin puts that into stark relief. Again, in the 2012 election, the Democratic Party won fifty-two percent of the overall vote, but yet walked away with one-third of the seats.”
That doesn’t, on its face, seem like a fair drawing of the lines, if it is indicative of a pattern.
“It’s hard to reconcile that if that’s anything but a one off oddity,” said Mulligan. “If that’s happening all the time, if legislators are just picking their voters, that doesn’t look to many as if that is actual democracy. There’s many different states who look at things differently.”
The Sunflower State is one of those states that has officials drawing lines.
“Kansas allows the Statehouse to just draw its own voting districts,” said Mulligan. “It ended up in Federal litigation last time we drew the districts. It was quite the mess. Other states use non-partisan commissions, whether its judges or other sorts of commissioners as they’re sometimes called, to draw those lines. They often rely on computer programs which purport to have neutral standards to ensure that you’re creating fair districts which will be representative of the voting populace.”
There is a lot of history behind the way things are done now, though.
“That’s part and parcel of our history and politics,” said Mulligan. “We’ve always empowered legislative bodies to make those choices, doing so to ensure that political parties get maximal representation is something that we have allowed since the founding of our country.”
There is no word at this point as to when a decision may be handed down.