Interested in UW Law School’s new State Democracy Research Initiative? Sign up for their free newsletter for news on the latest research, happenings, and events. Issues will be published at the end of each semester. Here are some highlights from the inaugural issue:
With a decennial redistricting cycle in full swing, we have been actively sharing our expertise. Faculty Co-Director Robert Yablon released a new law review article, Gerrylaundering (NYU Law Review, forthcoming 2022), which has had an immediate impact on redistricting discourse. Litigants and judges have cited the piece in redistricting litigation, and it has drawn notice in legislative proceedings and media coverage as well. The term “gerrylaundering” refers to efforts during redistricting to perpetuate skewed electoral maps. Gerrylaunders may be more subtle than classic gerrymanders, but they raise many of the same concerns.
On Oct. 28, Yablon offered expert testimony before committees of the Wisconsin legislature on bills relating to redistricting.
Together with the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we hosted a well-attended webinar on “Gerrymandering and Redistricting 2021: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead,” to explore unfolding developments, emerging themes, and what to expect as redistricting moves forward in Wisconsin and around the country. If you missed this discussion, a recording is available.
STATE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERTISE
Faculty Co-Director Miriam Seifter was featured on Digging a Hole: The Legal Theory Podcast to discuss cutting-edge issues in state constitutional law and the overlapping missions of the State Democracy Research Initiative and the new State and Local Government (SLoG)Blog. Seifter also spoke about state constitutional law and democracy as a commentator at the 2021 Brennan Center Jorde Symposium, an annual event at Berkeley Law that supports top scholarly discourse on issues central to the legacy of Justice William Brennan. Most recently, Seifter provided expertise on direct-democracy provisions in state constitutions at the Nebraska College of Law Direct Democracy Symposium.
STATE SUPREME COURTS RESEARCH
We are in the midst of a major empirical research project on the work of state supreme courts. As featured in a Big Ten speaker series earlier this year, this project involves compiling data on thousands of state supreme court cases, including on the types of issues that arise, outcomes, alignment of justices, identities of parties and attorneys, participation of amicus curiae, and more. We have preliminarily completed a comprehensive 50-state dataset for all published substantive decisions issued in 2018—nearly 5,000 cases in all. This semester, our research assistants collected historical lookback data for 14 selected states, for years 2008, 1998, and 1988. We look forward to finalizing and publishing our data in 2022.