Wisconsin Supreme Court Passes Governor’s Redistricting Maps | New Policies

By SCOTT BAUER and TODD RICHMOND, Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday passed the “least change” legislative and congressional redistricting maps submitted by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, a plan that largely preserves current district lines that yield majorities republicans.

That means Republicans are very likely to stay in the majority as they have been for the past decade. But the maps adopted by the court were not as pro-GOP as other alternatives submitted by the Republican- and conservative-controlled legislature that the court rejected.

“Hell yes,” Evers said in a statement reacting to the decision. “The maps I submitted to the Court and selected today are a vast improvement over the gerrymandered maps Wisconsin has had for the past decade and the even more gerrymandered Republican maps I have had. vetoed me last year.”

The conservative-controlled court had previously said it would not make significant changes to the dividing lines already in place and created by Republicans in 2011, limiting the ability of Evers and liberals to submit maps more favorable to the democrats.

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The Evers cards would elect 44 Democrats and 55 Republicans to the House, and 13 Democrats and 20 Republicans to the Senate, based on analysis by the governor’s office. Currently, Republicans hold a 61-38 majority in the House and a 21-12 advantage in the Senate.

Republicans would win five seats in Congress and Democrats would get three, the same split as today, according to Evers’ office.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said in a statement late Thursday, “Evers drew racist maps behind closed doors without any input from the public. His maps intentionally watered down the representation of minorities for political purposes and violated the open and transparent process the public deserved.”

Judge Brian Hagedorn, who is often a swing vote on the court, wrote the 4-3 majority opinion. He was joined by the court’s three liberal justices, while the three conservatives dissented.

“We said we would choose cards that minimize changes from current law and evaluate cards for compliance with state and federal laws,” Hagedorn wrote for the majority. “In so concluding, we rejected an approach that involved this tribunal making important political decisions or weighing competing political criteria.”

Conservative Justice Annette Ziegler, in her dissent, said the choice of Evers cards was “an exercise in judicial activism, unrelated to evidence, precedent, the Wisconsin Constitution and basic principles of equal protection. “.

The cards submitted by Evers most closely conform to criteria established by the Supreme Court and comply with federal voting rights law, attorneys for the governor argued in court in January.

The attorney for the Legislature countered that the governor’s legislative map was unconstitutional because it encouraged too many people to create more districts with a majority of black and Hispanic voters.

All submitted maps had to closely follow the current boundary lines, as per the court’s earlier order. The court has previously ruled that changes to current maps should be limited to population changes evidenced by the census once a decade.

Law Forward, a liberal law firm that represented several suffrage interest groups, said that given the court’s earlier ruling, any map it didn’t pass would not be truly fair.

“However, the Governor’s proposal does much to improve the representation of people across our state within the narrow boundaries set by the Court,” the group tweeted. “The Court rejected other options that would have further entrenched the partisan Wisconsin gerrymander.”

Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said the court’s decision meant “much fairer maps” than those of the past decade, but he said the least change standard “effectively prevents the adoption of maps that are really righteous”.

Republican legislative leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Elections Project, said “the die was cast” when the court decided to take the “less changes” approach.

“The partisan maps adopted today, which intentionally disenfranchise the majority of Wisconsin residents, are an unfair and poor outcome in this case and pose a serious threat to representative democracy in our state,” Chheda said.

There is also an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by Democrats and nonpartisan groups. They might attempt to push through more favorable cards this way.

Redistricting is the process of redrawing political state boundaries based on the latest census showing how populations have changed in neighborhoods, cities, and counties since 2010. Mappers can create an advantage for their political party during future elections by regrouping opponents’ voters in a few districts. or distribute them among multiple districts – a process known as gerrymandering.

In 2018, Democrats won every race statewide, but Republicans held more than 60% of the legislative seats. Republicans partly blamed bad Democratic candidates, while Democrats argued that gerrymandering entrenched the GOP advantage.

Republicans have a majority of 61 to 38 in the Assembly and 21 to 12 in the Senate. They also hold five of the eight seats in Congress.

Republicans controlled the Legislature and the governor’s office in 2011, the last time a redistricting was done. Evers vetoed Republican maps last year, taking the battle to court. Evers called the maps “gerrymandering 2.0”.

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