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Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear high-stakes case challenging legislative maps | Wisconsin

The fight for democracy

The state assembly map is perhaps the most structured in the United States, and a lawsuit could end more than a decade of Republican dominance

Tue, November 21, 2023, 6:00 a.m. EST

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in a high-stakes lawsuit seeking to invalidate maps intended for the state Legislature. The outcome could end what could be the most gerrymandered districts in the United States and upend politics in Wisconsin.

The Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission case could end more than a decade of Republican dominance in the Wisconsin Legislature. In 2011, Republicans drew districts for the state Legislature so skewed in their favor that it was impossible for them to lose their majority. Last year, the state Supreme Court implemented new maps that made as few changes as possible from the old ones when lawmakers and the state’s Democratic governor reached an impasse over redistricting.

The Wisconsin state assembly map is perhaps the most structured body in the United States. It packs Democrats into as few districts as possible while spreading their influence elsewhere. Even though Wisconsin is one of the most politically competitive states in America, Republicans have never held fewer than 60 seats in the state Assembly since 2012. Gerrymandering in the Assembly spills over into the Senate state, where Wisconsin law requires districts to consist of three assemblies. districts.

The case was filed the day after Janet Protasiewicz officially took the Supreme Court in August, flipping control of the judiciary and giving liberals a 4-3 majority. Protasiewicz, who called the cards ” rigged” during her campaign last year, a comment that prompted Republicans in the Legislature to threaten to impeach her.

Opponents of the case argue that the maps are unconstitutional for two reasons. First, they say, 75 of the state’s 132 legislative districts are not contiguous. This is a blatant violation of a mandate in the state constitution that states districts be “bounded by the boundaries of any county, precinct, city or borough.” district, be made up of a contiguous territory and have as compact a shape as possible.

Second, they argue that the way the maps were implemented went against the state constitution. In 2021, the state Supreme Court took over the redistricting process after Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, vetoed a GOP-developed plan. The court, which then had a conservative majority, issued a call for proposals for a new map, but announced that it would choose a proposal that would make as few changes as possible to existing maps. She initially chose a map drawn by Evers, but that map was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court then chose a different plan submitted by Republican lawmakers. This was the same card Evers vetoed in 2021.

Opponents say the move allowed the Legislature to override Evers’ veto, violating the separation of powers between the branches of government.

Republicans argue that the districts are constitutional. Several localities in Wisconsin have annexed non-contiguous territories in order to maintain their integrity. The state Supreme Court also exercised a constitutionally authorized role in choosing a map, they say, because the governor and lawmakers were at an impasse.

The state election commission has said it will need all cards in place for next year’s elections by March 15, 2024, so a Supreme Court decision is expected relatively quickly.

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