Election Procedures for the Wisconsin Supreme Court Election maps by state unconstitutional

Wisconsin Supreme Court Election maps
Wisconsin Supreme Court Election maps | Image Credit: theguardian.com

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 ruling on Friday afternoon, December 22, that the state’s present voting maps are unconstitutional and need to be redrew in time for the 2024 election.

State legislative districts in Wisconsin are required by the Wisconsin Constitution to be composed of “contiguous territory.” However, “the number of state legislative districts containing territory completely disconnected from the rest of the district is striking,” according to the majority decision.

Justice Jill Karofsky wrote the majority ruling, which finds that “at least fifty of ninety-nine assembly districts and at least twenty of thirty-three senate districts include separate, detached territory.”

The ruling, which includes maps showing the islands of noncontiguous voting regions in the state’s present districts, argues that contiguous districts are a protection against gerrymandering and help keep together groups of voters who live in the same places and have the same interests.

According to the reasoning behind the decision, contiguous districts serve as a check on gerrymandering and aid in maintaining the unity of voting groupings that share similar interests and reside in the same locations.

In Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, the voters contended that the existing district lines were unconstitutional, and they requested that the court compel the adoption of new, corrective maps. In addition, they requested that the court declare the state senate elections of November 2022 to be invalid and call special elections to fill state senate seats that would not otherwise be up for election until November 2026.

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The Wisconsin Elections Commission is prohibited from utilizing the existing legislative maps in any future elections by the court’s decision, which supports the petitioners’ contention that “Wisconsin’s state legislative districts must be composed of physically adjoining territory.” However, it decided against nullifying the outcomes of the state senate elections in 2022.

The majority judgment calls on the legislature to create new voting maps that adhere to the constitution, acknowledging that it is their duty to do so. It further specifies that the court will approve corrective maps that can be utilized in time for the 2024 elections, unless and until new, constitutional maps are enacted through the legislative process, given that the legislature might not design such maps or the governor might veto them.

In a second order, the court requested that the parties to the complaint submit their remedial legislative district designs, as well as expert testimony and an explanation of how their maps adhere to the guidelines outlined in the court’s ruling. After then, both sides will have a chance to reply to one another.

Dan Lenz, staff attorney with the public interest legal organization Law Forward, which represented the petitioners, stated in a statement that “today’s decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court is a victory for a representative democracy in the state of Wisconsin.” “Right-wing interests have rigged the game for far too long with no repercussions. Voters’ voices have been muffled by the distortion of the political landscape caused by gerrymandered maps. It undermines trust in our democratic system and calls into question the fundamentals of fair representation.

Lenz said that in the upcoming weeks, Law Forward will be creating “constitutional, fair, representative maps” to offer before the court.

The ruling outlined the guidelines the court will follow when approving corrective maps.

In contrast to the last challenge to Wisconsin’s voting maps, where the court’s conservative majority at the time established a standard of “least change” and directed the legislature and Governor Tony Evers to submit maps that were as similar to the previous voting maps as possible, the current court has overruled the previous decision’s “least change” standard and will not take “least change” into consideration at all.

The court found in its ruling that the revised maps had to abide by the federal equal protection provision, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Wisconsin constitution’s contiguity requirement. The court will also take into account “partisan impact” in addition to other factors like minimizing municipal splits and maintaining communities of interest when assessing new maps.

The ruling says, “We will take care to avoid selecting remedial maps designed to advantage one political party over another as a politically neutral and independent institution.” Crucially, though, ignoring political effect totally makes it impossible to maintain objectivity and independence.

The court, then ruled by a 4-3 conservative majority, implemented the current maps in 2022 after Governor Tony Evers and the Republican-controlled legislature were unable to come to an agreement on new ones. In a string of rulings in Johnson v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, the conservative majority declared that any new proposed maps had to adhere to a threshold of “least change” from the gerrymandered 2011 maps. Following the conclusion of the legal battles, the legislature’s original maps—which had been vetoed by the governor—were selected by the court. These maps closely mirrored the previous gerrymandered maps.

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Many people believe that Wisconsin’s voting maps are some of the most politically gerrymandered in the whole nation. In 2018, Democrats won 53 percent of the assembly votes cast nationwide and swept every statewide election, although they only took home 36 percent of the assembly seats. Wisconsin voters are evenly divided by party, and close margins frequently determine statewide elections. Republicans do, however, now have a near-supermajority of 64-35 in the state assembly and a 22-11 supermajority in the state senate.

The recent election of Justice Janet Protasiewicz to the Supreme Court was largely influenced by the gerrymandering controversy, which resulted in the court’s majority shifting from conservative to liberal for the first time in over fifteen years.

When Protasiewicz was running for office, she called the maps “rigged.”

She prevailed by 11 points in the statewide election for her seat. Subsequently, the Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, hailing from Rocherster, vowed to remove her from any decision-making over the maps. Vos has subsequently stated that impeachment is “unlikely,” though.

The conservative dissents on the court demonstrated the political struggle over Wisconsin’s maps.

Chief Justice Annette Ziegler lambasted the new liberal majority in her dissent, writing, “This deal was sealed on election night.” “Even though this constitutional duty has to be carried out every 10 years, following a census by the other two bodies of government, four justices redrew the boundaries of Wisconsin.

Ziegler continued, “Their activism harms the judiciary as a whole.”

“It’s evident to me that this Republican-controlled legislature is unable to create impartial, fair maps worthy of this state’s citizens, having repeatedly gerrymandered itself into comfortable, partisan majorities for over ten years.”Tony Evers, the governor

Justice Brian Hagedorn observed, “Today, the court dives headlong into politics, choosing to wield the power it has while it has it.” “This is not the place for Wisconsinites looking for an institution free of partisan warfare.”

According to Rebecca Bradley, “the majority rides a Trojan horse named ‘Contiguity,’ breaching the lines of demarcation separating the judiciary from the political branches in order to transfer power from one political party to another.”

Governor Evers accepted the ruling.

Evers said in a statement, “It’s clear to me that a Republican-controlled legislature is incapable of preparing fair, nonpartisan maps deserving of the people of this state, having consistently gerrymandered itself into comfortable, partisan majorities for more than a decade.” “I concur with the court’s ruling that the absence of continuity in the districts renders these maps illegal. Wisconsin is a purple state, therefore I’m excited to offer the court with maps that accurately depict and symbolize our state’s geography.


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