The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state's heavily gerrymandered state legislative maps are unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to draw new maps ahead of the 2024 election.
The case over Republican-drawn lines emerged as a political flashpoint in the closely watched swing state, the first major case heard and decided by the court's neoliberal majority.
A 4-3 judgment In theory, the justices tasked lawmakers with drawing new maps, but wrote that if they failed to do so, the court could move forward with the process of drawing a preliminary “remedial” map.
The ideological balance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court shifted to liberals for the first time in 15 years in April, after Janet Protasiewicz, a retired conservative justice, won a seat on the court.
During the race, Protasiewicz criticized the state's maps as “unfair” and “”Fraudulent” — comments from conservatives that proved he predicted how he would rule on the issue. Following his victory, Republicans in the state demanded that he recuse himself from the case, with some threatening to impeach him for refusing to do so.
State's Current Legislative Map — It's the Experts have said It's one of the worst in the U.S. — approved last year by a previously conservative majority on the state Supreme Court. Democrat Tony Evers and the GOP-controlled Legislature disagree on the boundaries.
The newly tossed legislative maps heavily favor Republicans: they control 64 of the 99 seats in the state legislature and 22 of the 33 seats in the state senate. Both the state and the last two gubernatorial races have been decided by less than 4 points.
In a challenge to the map, Democratic lawyers argued it was unconstitutional because it violated the state constitution's requirement that districts be contiguous — a cumbersome and poorly defined rule that mandates legislative districts be physically close to each other. Critics of the current maps have noted that some Wisconsin counties include “islands” (or isolated areas) in other counties. Compare them Have Swiss cheese.
In their ruling Friday, the court's liberal justices agreed, noting that the Wisconsin Constitution states that “state legislative districts must be composed of 'contiguous territory.'”
“At least 50 of the 99 Assembly districts and at least 20 of the 33 Senate districts violate this mandate, which is unconstitutional,” they wrote.
“The settlement maps must be adopted before the 2024 elections. We believe the legislative process will produce new legislative district maps. However, failing that, this Court is prepared to accept settlement maps based on the criteria, process and dates set out in this opinion and the concurrent order,” the judges continued.
The liberal majority ordered state legislators to have new maps before the Aug. 13 legislative primary election.
The ruling requires every member of the state legislature and half of the state senate to run in a redrawn district.
In a blistering dissent, conservative Justice Annette Ziegler reiterated criticism of the court's liberal majority by Republicans in the state, writing that “the deal was sealed on election night” — a reference to Protasiewicz's victory in April. Maps.
“No longer is the judicial branch so dangerous in Wisconsin,” Ziegler wrote.
State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican who has been one of Protasiewicz's most vocal critics, suggested in X that Republicans could appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Decided before suit is brought,” Vos wrote. “Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court will have the last word.”
Progressive organizations hailed the verdict.
“Wisconsin is one of the worst gerrymander states in the country, and Republicans have long robbed voters of true representation,” said Heather Williams, chair of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “We applaud the Wisconsin Supreme Court for finding these maps unconstitutional and urge that future maps fairly reflect communities across the state. Make no mistake: this decision is a game-changer.
Further underscoring the decision's significance is the fact that it's not just the maps at stake: It could also be the fate of decades of conservative legislation in the perennial battleground state.
While the ruling certainly won't hand Democrats control of the Republican Party, it will weaken the GOP's 12-year hold on both, according to recent analyzes of maps. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel And this Associated Press.
This will help boost future efforts to reverse years of conservative policies in the state on related issues. Election Administration, trade unions And Abortion. The new maps could move Republicans further from a supermajority (the party currently has one in the state Senate. Only two seats short having one in the state legislature), and with it, the ability to override Evers' vetoes.
Meanwhile, the ruling will reignite calls among Republicans to impeach Protasievich.
Wisconsin Republican lawmakers began talking openly about the possibility of impeaching him days after his April victory. Vos directed a panel of former members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to provide an analysis of whether Protasiewicz could be impeached.
However, members of the secret committee, assembled by Voss, eventually advised him No Go ahead with the charge. and while Vos, In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this weekAppearing somewhat withdrawn, he added that an allegation was “not off the table”.