The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the legislative redistricting plan crafted by Governor Tony Evers and approved earlier this month by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, returning the dispute to the state Supreme Court to hear examine it again.
The ruling cast doubt on the future of Wisconsin maps about three weeks before candidates begin circulating nomination petitions to run in the new districts.
U.S. Supreme Court 7-2 order denying legislative maps found that Evers or the Wisconsin Supreme Court erred in how they applied federal voting rights law to new districts Milwaukee legislatures.
Evers’ legislative map drew seven majority black Assembly districts in Milwaukee, compared to six majority black districts at this time. Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn, who wrote the state court opinion that was overturned on Wednesday, ruled there were “good reasons to believe” that a majority Seventh District black was required to satisfy the Voting Rights Act, often referred to as the VRA.
GOP lawmakers and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty appealed, arguing that the decision violated the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution because it drew new districts based solely on race.
In a seven-page order issued on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court majority ruled that Evers’ legislative map failed to follow established case law on whether the Voting Rights Act should apply. .
“Apparently just embracing the kind of uncritical maximization of the majority-minority district that we expressly rejected,” the court majority wrote.
While the ruling is a victory for Republicans, the U.S. Supreme Court did not endorse the map drawn by GOP lawmakers and made clear that the Wisconsin Supreme Court could still side with Evers .
“On remand, the court is free to take additional evidence if it prefers to reconsider the Governor’s cards rather than choose from among the other submissions,” reads the court order. “Any further analysis, however, must be consistent with our equal protection case law.”
Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, with Sotomayor calling the majority decision “unprecedented.”
“In an emergency posture, the Court summarily overturns a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision resolving a dispute over state redistricting, a decision issued after a 5-month process involving all stakeholders,” Sotomayor wrote. . “Despite the fact that summary reversals are generally reserved for decisions in violation of established law, the Court today faults the State Supreme Court for failing to comply with an obligation which, under existing case law, is fuzzy at best.”
Although the majority decision was unsigned, all the justices participated in the case, meaning Justice Stephen Breyer sided with the court’s conservatives. Breyer was nominated by former President Bill Clinton.
In a separate, unanimous order, the U.S. Supreme Court left the Evers-drawn congressional maps in place, denying a request by Republican members of Congress to suspend that decision.
Time is running out for new maps
Wednesday’s decision gives Wisconsin little time to resolve its redistricting dispute before candidates start running for the new districts.
On April 15, candidates must begin circulating nomination petitions to run for office in the new districts. The Wisconsin Elections Commission previously said it needed new maps in place by March 1 to prepare petitions. More recently, he told the U.S. Supreme Court he wanted a decision one way or the other by March 15.
“Any delay in this implementation work beyond March 15 would increase the risk of errors in WisVote and reduce the time available to correct these errors before the start of circulation of application materials,” reads a statement. Election Commission brief filed by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, who heads the Wisconsin Department of Justice, told a WisPolitics forum on Wednesday that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to disregard pending delays was shocking.
The U.S. Supreme Court has generally followed what’s known as “Purcell’s Principle” since 2006. Generally speaking, it discourages courts from making changes before an election that could confuse voters. or create problems for the administration of the election.
“There were several other states whose maps were challenged, and the court always said it was too late in the process to require the courts or legislatures to redraw the maps,” Kaul said. “But apparently they came to a different conclusion here in Wisconsin.”
In a written statement, Evers said they called the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision a “remarkable departure” from their own recent actions.
“If we are to go back to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin – which has already called our maps ‘superior to all other proposals’ – to demonstrate again that these maps are better and fairer than the maps we have now, then it is That’s exactly what we’ll be fine with,” Evers said.
Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said that because demographic changes made Wisconsin’s 2011 districts obsolete and unconstitutional, the Wisconsin Supreme Court had to choose new maps. Once that decision was made, he argued, people had the right to appeal on important federal issues.
“When you have constitutional issues, you have to adjust the process to accommodate those constitutional issues,” Esenberg said.
Esenberg said the court would ideally finalize the maps within the next two weeks.
“I think it’s going to happen because when the Supreme Court of the United States tells you to do something, you do it,” Esenberg said.
Whichever map the Wisconsin Supreme Court chooses is always likely to favor Republicans, the question is to what extent.
Hagedorn joined the rest of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s conservatives in a November ruling that endorsed the idea of a “less changes” approach to redistricting, meaning any new maps would somehow look like those passed by the Legislative Assembly and signed by former Republican Governor Scott Walker. in 2011.
It’s possible the state Supreme Court could adjust its guidelines as a result of the US Supreme Court’s decision, but time is running out.
For more on the history of redistricting in Wisconsin and its impact on political power in the state, check out WPR’s investigative podcast series, “Mapped Out.”