In an unsigned opinion Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Wisconsin’s legislative maps that were favored by Governor Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Notably, however, the U.S. Supreme Court left in place Wisconsin’s congressional districts proposals. The Supreme Court only rejected the Wisconsin Supreme Court selected for the State Assembly and Senate.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court had to select maps from a variety of options following Gov. Evers and the Wisconsin State Legislature’s failure to reach a consensus on the matter.
“If we have to go back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court — who have already called our maps ‘superior to every other proposal’ — to demonstrate again that these maps are better and fairer than the maps we have now, then that’s exactly what we’ll do,” said Gov. Evers in a press release. “I will not stop fighting for better, fairer maps for the people of this state who shouldn’t have to wait any longer than they already have to ensure their voices are heard.”
Gov. Evers did acknowledge that the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Wisconsin’s Congressional districts was a success, adding that “that’s great news for the people of our state and our democracy, and it’s been a long time coming.”
“The Governor, by his own legal argument, targeted minority voters to draw districts on the basis of race,” said Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) in a press statement earlier this month. “That is expressly prohibited under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and today we asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the protections guaranteed by the Constitution and federal law.”
The Supreme Court supported this opinion, writing that the Wisconsin Supreme Court did not consider a “race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district that would deny black voters equal political opportunity.”
Many Democrats spoke out against the ruling, including Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, who called the decision “shocking”, and grouped the decision as “consistent with the increasing activism we've seen from the conservative supermajority in the U.S. Supreme Court,” adding that “this is going to create some real complications for our election process.”
“SCOTUS has instead perpetuated the disenfranchisement of Wisconsin democracy — and disenfranchising Wisconsin voters — to prevent our state from having the most competitive districts that would move us forward in having the will of the people represented in our legislature,” said Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison).
The justices sent the maps back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who will be able to reconsider the decision. This will give Gov. Evers and Wisconsin Democrats the opportunity to push forward the same or similar maps, should they be able to provide new and sufficient evidence to the court, something Gov. Evers stated he intends on doing.
“The Court’s action today is unprecedented,” wrote dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kegan in dissent, in the Supreme Court opinion on the case. “The court today faults the State Supreme Court for its failure to comply with an obligation that, under existing precedent, is hazy at best […] I would allow that process to unfold, rather than further complicating these proceedings with legal confusion.”
Ian Wilder is a current features writer and former state politics reporter for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.