A federal trial underway in Madison this week could create a new way for courts to determine whether a redistricting was done constitutionally.
At the heart of the case challenging Wisconsin’s 2011 redistricting process is something the plaintiffs are calling an “efficiency gap.” UW-Madison political scientist David Canon says it refers to the wasted votes cast when a large number of voters aligned with a party are packed into one area. In essence, he says it lets Democrats win a few races with big margins, while Republicans are able to win more races with smaller margins.
AUDIO: Professor David Canon explains the efficiency gap argument (:55)
The lawsuit from Democrats argues the efficiency gap in Wisconsin’s maps is exceedingly high, which violates their voting rights. “What the plaintiffs hope to show in this case is that Wisconsin is an extreme outlier…in terms of those wasted votes, because of the way the districts were drawn,” he says.
If the court backs that argument, Canon says it could make Wisconsin a test case for similar disputes in other states that rely on their Legislatures to draw the new maps after the U.S. Census is done every decade. “This has the potential to be one of these landmark cases.”
The trial in the case is expected to run through the end of the week, while a decision would come later. The outcome will be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.