Wisconsin Supreme Court hands GOP major win on congressional maps

The Wisconsin Supreme Court handed the state GOP a victory on Friday, adopting congressional maps drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature over maps favored by Democrat Gov. Tony Evers. 

The 4-3 ruling Friday came after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the original Evers-favored maps for violating the Voting Rights Act.

“Evers’ maps had factored in race to increase the number of Black majority Assembly districts from six to seven. The Republican-drawn maps chosen Friday reduce the number of Black majority districts to five,” Citizen Free Press reported.

Unless Democrats can overturn the decision, the new maps will be valid for the next 10 years.

Of the many controversies that census-based congressional reapportionment has occasioned across the 50 states, Wisconsin’s case might be the most contentious.

After Gov. Evers vetoed maps presented by the GOP-led state legislature, both parties turned to the state Supreme Court for a ruling.

“Rather than attempt to draw new maps itself, the court invited the parties and intervenors — including the legislature and the Governor — to propose maps that complied with” applicable laws, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling noted. In early March, the court chose the governor’s maps — which still favored the GOP generally, but added an additional majority-black district.

While the stated reason for the move was to comply with the equal protection clause of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the move also increased the electoral chances for Democrats.

Republican sued and, in an unsigned March opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with them, finding Evers’ map shifted too many black voters into additional districts. The ruling left the voting maps for U.S. Congress in place but threw out the maps for the state Assembly and Senate.

“On remand, the court is free to take additional evidence if it prefers to reconsider the Governor’s maps rather than choose from among the other submissions. Any new analysis, however, must comply with our equal protection jurisprudence,” the ruling read.

In the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Friday decision, Chief Justice Annette Ziegler said the GOP-drawn maps were “race neutral” and the court didn’t find adequate reasoning “to justify drawing state legislative districts on the basis of race.”

“The maps proposed by the Wisconsin Legislature are race neutral. The Legislature’s maps comply with the Equal Protection Clause, along with all other applicable federal and state legal requirements,” Ziegler wrote.

“Further, the Legislature’s maps exhibit minimal changes to the existing maps, in accordance with the least change approach we adopted.”

The decision elicited a furious reaction from Evers.

“At a time when our democracy is under near-constant attack, the judiciary has abandoned our democracy in our most dire hour,” Evers said in a statement.

“Wisconsinites want a democracy, they want fair representation, and they want fair maps as they have demanded of this government for ten years. Today, they receive no recourse.”

Evers’ statement, it’s worth noting, didn’t specify the nature of the “near-constant attack” on democracy, nor did it account for the fact the maps accepted by the court were drawn by the legislature elected by those democracy-wanting Wisconsinites. It’s unclear whether such clarifications will be forthcoming.