Charlotte Tyler
December 23, 2023

Wisconsin Supreme Court vacates legislative maps drawn by the GOP

On Friday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court invalidated legislative maps drawn by the Republican Party and mandated the redrawing of district boundary lines in the battleground state prior to the 2024 election.

The Democratic victory was a 4-3 decision and may have profound consequences for the imminent presidential contest, as The Hill reported.

This assertion is due to the fact that four of the state's last six presidential elections were decided by a margin of less than 23,000 votes.

The Majority Opinion

In a majority opinion, Justice Jill Karofsky ruled that the current maps of Wisconsin contravene the contiguity requirements of the state constitution.

Specifically, she stated that twenty of the thirty-three senate districts and fifty of the ninety-nine assembly districts contain "separate, detached territory."

“We hold that the contiguity requirements … mean what they say: Wisconsin’s state legislative districts must be composed of physically adjoining territory,” Karofsky wrote. “The constitutional text and our precedent support this common-sense interpretation of contiguity.”

The litigation participants shall be permitted to present maps to the court alongside corroborating arguments and expert testimony.

The court will implement remedial maps prior to the 2024 election, unless the Republican-controlled legislature passes maps that the Democratic governor of the state will approve. The majority sided with Karosfky and was comprised of liberal Justices Janet Protasiewicz, Ann Walsh Bradley, and Rebecca Dallet.

Brian Hagedorn, Annette Ziegler, and Rebecca Bradley, all with more conservative leanings, expressed dissent.

The lawsuit was initiated the day after Protasiewicz's August introduction to the court, which signified a shift to a 4-3 liberal majority. Preceding the conclusion of the case, Protasiewicz's criticism of the GOP-drawn maps as "unfair" and "rigged" during her campaign prompted demands for her impeachment.

The Democratic Party had characterized the maps as "extreme partisan gerrymanders" that infringed the provisions of the state constitution. In contrast, the Republican position was that no new maps should be implemented until at least 2026, and previous judicial decisions supported their position that noncontiguous districts were permissible under certain conditions.

Dissenting Opinion

Ziegler, in her dissenting opinion, criticized the majority for what she termed "judicial activism on steroids" and argued that the state's other two institutions of government bear constitutional responsibility for redistricting.

The justice wrote, “The court of four takes a wrecking ball to the law, making no room, nor having any need, for longstanding practices, procedures, traditions, the law, or even their co-equal fellow branches of government.”

Sam Hirsch, an attorney who represented intervenor-petitioners in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, stated that they eagerly await the completion of the remedial process in order to guarantee "fair representation in the State Legislature for the first time in over a decade" for the citizens of Wisconsin.

The majorities in the Wisconsin Assembly (64-35) and Senate (22-11) are both held by the Republican Party. These majorities were firmly established through the legislative electoral maps devised by the legislature headed by the Republicans in 2011.

There is ongoing litigation in over a dozen states concerning legislative maps formulated subsequent to the 2020 census.

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