The Supreme Court of Wisconsin approves the legislative maps drawn by the Republicans

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin approves the legislative maps drawn by the Republicans

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin approves the legislative maps drawn by the Republicans

The conservative majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted Friday to adopt new state legislative maps drawn by Republicans who control the legislature, overturning its previous decision favoring maps drawn by the state’s Democratic governor.

The court acted after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its previous ruling last month, saying in a controversial ruling that state judges hadn’t considered whether Democratic-drawn maps complied with federal voting rights law.

The newly adopted maps – partisan gerrymanders that were drawn in secret in 2011 after Republicans took over from Democrats in both houses of the legislature – essentially block the overwhelming Republican majority in the Assembly and Senate for the next decade.

A months-long legal battle began in November when Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed Republican-designed legislative districts. The state Supreme Court resolved a stalemate in March by voting 4 to 3 in favor of maps drawn by the governor that slightly reduced Republican majorities.

Those maps included a seventh district of the Assembly in which black voters held the majority, a move that Republican lawmakers called a “21st century racial gerrymander” in an emergency appeal to the US Supreme Court. The court then sent the maps to state judges to reconsider their compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

The US Supreme Court, however, dismissed another Republican appeal, after state judges chose the governor’s version of the Wisconsin Congressional map. The state has eight seats in the House of Representatives and Republicans hold a majority of five to three.

In their ruling on Friday, state judges said the governor “had a more than adequate opportunity to produce a sufficient record” to justify a black-majority seventh district, but failed to do so. On the contrary, they said, the maps drawn by the Republicans were “race-neutral” and conformed to state and federal guidelines.

In a lengthy dissent by the court’s three Democrats, Judge Jill J. Karofsky called the approval of the Republican maps absurd, noting that while Mr. Evers’ maps had added a black majority Assembly district, the Republican maps did not. they had removed one.

If the addition of such a district is evidence of an unjustified dependence on race in drawing maps, he wrote, “then the legislator’s removal of a majority-minority district in the Milwaukee area reveals a similar sign. suspect, if not more striking, of race-based line drawing. ”

Mr. Evers called the ruling outrageous, saying the state judges had “clearly and decisively rejected the maps of the legislature before this case was examined by the Supreme Court.”

Outsiders had speculated that the governor might try to take the matter back to the US Supreme Court, but he seemed to rule out such a move, calling the decision “an inconceivable miscarriage of justice for which the people of this state will see no respite for a while. another decade “.

This appears to pave the way for candidates to begin collecting petitions for the state legislative primary elections on August 9. Some people were unable to apply until the final maps determined which districts they would seek to represent.

Voting rights defenders quickly condemned the state court’s decision.

“With no legal or prior basis and ignoring a decision made just a month ago, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is showing its true colors: the political advantage over judicial fairness,” said Sachin Chheda, the director of the Fair Elections Project. been in a statement.

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which filed a pleading in the case, said the judges had correctly “recognized that our Constitution reserves race-based decision-making for the most extreme situations.”

“The governor did not justify his racial district reorganization,” the organization continued. “The court did well to reject him.”

Wisconsin was among the most hotly contested legal battlegrounds for partisan gerrymandering. A challenge to the Republican State Assembly and State Senate maps that were drawn in 2011, among the most lopsided maps ever approved, was submitted to the US Supreme Court in 2016 but was rejected when the court said that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing.

A second federal challenge died in 2019 after the Supreme Court ruled that partisan gerrymanders were political matters outside its jurisdiction.

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