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Noah Feldman

Wisconsin Republicans' Gerrymander Takes Politics Too Far

Court rules for the first time against hyperpartisan redistricting.
Divisive politics.

Divisive politics.

Photographer: Darren Hauck/Getty Images

In a case that could eventually affect the balance of legislatures across the country, a federal court in Wisconsin has for the first time struck down a partisan gerrymander. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously declined to regulate such party-based districting, but this time may well be different. The lower court gave a simple, clear rule for determining whether districting is designed to disadvantage one party systematically. And the growing disparity between Republican and Democratic-controlled state legislatures gives the justices -- especially Anthony Kennedy -- very good reason to intervene.

The facts of the case are being repeated all over the country. The Wisconsin state legislature, which sets state and federal electoral districts, is Republican controlled. After the 2010 census, it introduced a new districting plan that was designed by experts with computer programs so sophisticated that they make the task simple. The plan was to increase the number of Republicans elected using techniques called “cracking” and “packing.”