CRF Blog

Meet the man who may end gerrymandering

by Bill Hayes

In Meet the man who may end gerrymandering, Salon interviews Bill Whitford, a retired law professor, who is the named plaintiff in Whitford v. Gill. In this case, a federal appellate court has ordered the Wisconsin legislature to redraw its state assembly districts, which the court found to be unconstitutionally partisan. The decision is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Let me start with the obvious questions: How did you become interested in redistricting? And how did you become the plaintiff in what could be the most important Supreme Court decision on partisan gerrymandering ever?

I’ve been a political junkie from the word go. I grew up in Madison. My mother was very political. By the time I was 13 or 14, I was a big-D Democrat, working on campaigns. I was chairman of the Young Democrats as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. Then I went to law school straight out of college, mostly interested in constitutional law. Baker v. Carr was decided [in 1962] while I was in law school. I wrote my very first academic article, as a student, on Baker v. Carr.

That’s amazing: Baker v. Carr is the decision that allows the federal courts to get involved in redistricting matters. The hunt for redistricting’s holy grail — a standard to measure partisan gerrymandering, the goal of Whitford — begins there.

Yes, it argued even then about what the standard should be. I got a job as a law school professor teaching assigned contracts, and then went a different way in terms of my academic specialties. But I always remained a Democratic activist interested in politics and redistricting. That’s my birthright, I guess! [more]