Wisconsin’s gerrymandering case Gill v. Whitford received an update Friday as lawyers for the Democratic plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in federal court.
Lawyers added 28 additional plaintiffs to the law suit challenging Wisconsin’s legislative districts. The case was sent back to a lower court by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer, and the Democratic plaintiffs were given a chance to prove they had standing. This means that court wanted them to show they were directly impacted by how state legislative Republicans drew Wisconsin’s maps.
For Deborah Patel, one of the plaintiffs that was added to the case, the Supreme Court’s ruling frustrated her.
“After the Supreme Court case came down, when I saw that the court had said that there should be individuals who felt like they individually had been harmed, I felt like I fit that group,” Patel says. “So I reached out and said that I wanted to join the suit.”
Patel was not originally in the lawsuit, but was added to help show that Democratic voters around the state saw their vote carry less of an impact.
“After the Supreme Court decision we had a lot of interest from Wisconsin voters for becoming plaintiffs in the case,” Annabel Harless, an attorney on the case explains. “The Assembly map is 99 districts, so we knew we were going to have to get people from all over the state.
In Patel’s case, she lives in a district that straddles Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties — Democratic and Republican strongholds respectively. Though she lives in Milwaukee County, she says her voice is not effective there based on how her district is shaped.
“I said ‘wow, if I’m going to make any difference its not going to be through the Milwaukee Democratic Party, so [starting going] to the Ozaukee Democrats meetings in Saukville,” Patel says.
While Patel joins the same case that was remanded by the Supreme Court this year, a similar suit was filed Friday as well.
Also on Friday, Assembly Democrats filed a separate but related lawsuit.
The Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee filed a suit in federal court that alleges their first amendment right of association was abridged by how Republican lawmakers drew the map.
Their complaint alleges that “because of the current plan, the Assembly Democrats have experienced serious difficulties fundraising, registering voters, attracting volunteers, generating support from independents, and recruiting candidates to run for office.”
For Patel, even if Democrats take back power in 2020, she wants to see lasting change on the front of gerrymandering.
The Gill v. Whitford plaintiffs hope to move the case along before the 2020 election, and expect to have preliminary hearings this fall.
Will Kenneally filed this report.