The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday struck down Republican-drawn legislative maps and ordered new district boundary lines in the battleground state be drawn before the 2024 election.
The 4-3 decision in favor of Democrats could have resounding implications for the rapidly nearing presidential race, given four of the state’s six past presidential elections have been decided by fewer than 23,000 votes.
Justice Jill Karofsky, writing for the majority, said Wisconsin’s current maps violate the state constitution’s contiguity requirements, writing that some 50 of 99 assembly districts and 20 of 33 senate districts include “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 parties in the lawsuit will be allowed to submit maps to the court, in addition to supporting arguments and expert evidence. Before the 2024 election, remedial maps will be adopted by the court unless the GOP-controlled Legislature passes maps the state’s Democratic governor will approve.
Karosfky was joined by liberal Justices Janet Protasiewicz, Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet in the majority. Conservative justices Annette Ziegler, Rebecca Bradley and Brian Hagedorn dissented.
The lawsuit was filed a day after Protasiewicz joined the court in August, marking its flip to a 4-3 liberal majority. Protasiewicz called the GOP-drawn maps “unfair” and “rigged” during her campaign, inciting calls for her impeachment before the case had even been heard.
Democrats had argued that the maps were “extreme partisan gerrymanders” and that they violate the state constitution, while Republicans said no new maps should be enacted until at least 2026 and that past rulings on the matter backed up their view that districts could be noncontiguous under some circumstances.
In her dissent, Ziegler accused the majority of “judicial activism on steroids” and argued the constitutional responsibility for redistricting belongs with the state’s other two branches of government.
“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,” Ziegler wrote.
Sam Hirsch, a lawyer who argued before the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of intervenor-petitioners, said they look forward to working through the remedial process to ensure Wisconsinites have “fair representation in the State Legislature for the first time in more than a decade.”
Republicans hold a 64-35 majority in Wisconsin’s Assembly and a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate, majorities that were cemented by the legislative electoral maps down by the GOP-led legislature in 2011.
More than a dozen states have ongoing litigation involving legislative maps drawn after the 2020 census.
The Associated Press contributed.
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