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Legislative Update


Wis. Supreme Court adopts GOP-drawn legislative maps

by | Apr 18, 2022 | Federal Issue, Legislative Update Blog, State Issue | 0 comments

In what is likely to be the final court chapter in the current legislative redistricting saga, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has sided with the state’s GOP Legislature over the state’s Democratic governor on the question of what legislative boundaries will be in place for this fall’s election.

In a 4-3 decision handed down on Friday (April 15), Wisconsin’s high Court adopted legislative maps submitted by the Republican-led state Legislature that it had earlier rejected in favor of maps submitted by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

According to some observers, adoption of the Legislatively-drawn maps could possibly enable legislative Republicans to gain a “veto-proof” two-thirds “supermajority” in both houses of the Legislature when the next legislative session begins in January 2023 or, if not then, perhaps in the following legislative session.

Such a scenario could happen legislatively if it doesn’t happen electorally. Wisconsin’s Constitution (see Article IV, Section 3) allows the Wisconsin Legislature one districting and apportionment in the period between federal Census enumerations.  Because a legislatively enacted redistricting plan was not enacted during the recently completed legislative session, it may be possible for the Legislature to come in 2023 and pass new maps for the 2024 election cycle that could be even more favorable to Republican candidates, particularly should Republicans control both houses and also win the Governor’s seat.  

The latest ruling came following a game of legal “tug-of-war” that saw the Wisconsin Court’s March 3 decision to adopt Evers’ maps overturned on certiorari appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court.  In a decision handed down on March 23, the nation’s highest court summarily rejected the adoption of Gov. Evers’ maps and remanded the case back to Wisconsin’s highest court for further proceedings consistent with its ruling. At issue was the creation of a seventh majority-Black state Assembly district under governor’s maps. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with arguments made by Republican lawmakers who appealed the case and ruled that the evidentiary record in the case did not provide sufficient justification for the creation of additional race-based districts under the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) and under a “strict scrutiny” standard of Equal Protection analysis. 

With the case back before it, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined, on April 1, to allow the governor to submit additional evidence to support his maps, paving the way for it to reexamine the GOP-drawn maps and others it had earlier declined to adopt.

The second time around, the Wisconsin Supreme Court adopted the GOP-drawn maps.  Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, writing for the majority, stated:

“Upon review of the record, we conclude that insufficient evidence is presented to justify drawing state legislative districts on the basis of race.  The maps proposed by the Governor, Senator Bewley, BLOC, and CMS [i.e., the other map submitters] are racially motivated and, under the Equal Protection Clause, do not survive strict scrutiny. By contrast, the maps proposed by the Wisconsin Legislature are race neutral. The Legislature’s maps comply with the Equal Protection Clause, along with all other applicable federal and state legal requirements. Further, the Legislature’s maps exhibit minimal changes to the existing maps. Therefore, we adopt the state senate and assembly maps of the Legislature for the State of Wisconsin.” 

View decision.

 

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