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Friday, February 23, 2024
Wisconsin Supreme Court

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New legislative maps lay before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Here’s what we know.

Early analysis indicates Republican control will be put to the test, but their legislative advantage will not diminish.

State lawmakers, petitioners and Gov. Tony Evers submitted their new legislative maps to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday after the court ordered the Republican-drawn maps to be revised less than a year before the 2024 election. 

The submitted maps — which would reduce Republican advantage in Wisconsin — will be in place by March 15 before the April 2 presidential primary election. 

On Dec. 22 the court ruled in favor of the liberal-leaning firm Law Forward, which argued the legislative maps are unconstitutional because districts are not contiguous, meaning all parts of a voting district have to physically be in contact.

The court said state senators in odd-numbered districts will remain in office until their current term ends in 2026. 

Here’s what we know about the recent map submissions:

Republican control will not vanish 

Currently, Republicans hold a 64-35 majority in the Assembly and a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate. 

Republican lawmakers have controlled much of the legislative map-drawing process since 2011, and the GOP is two Assembly seats short of a full supermajority that would allow them to overturn Evers’ vetoes.

In maps proposed by Evers, Democrats could secure control of the Senate and Assembly if they perform similarly to how Evers did in his 2022 re-election. If Democrats get margins similar to the party’s loss against U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in 2022, Republicans would control the Assembly 51-48 and the Senate 17-16, according to the Cap Times

“Wisconsinites don’t want Republican or Democrat maps because Wisconsin isn’t a red or blue state—we’re a purple state, and our maps should reflect that basic fact,” Evers said in a press release

Per analysis from the Cap Times, Law Forward’s proposed maps would allocate 52% of the Legislature’s seats to the Republicans. Another proposal from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), a conservative legal group, would see Democrats gain eight Assembly seats and two Senate seats. 

Maps submitted by Democratic senators would also allocate a Republican advantage in the Legislature but create a few competitive elections in Republican-held seats. 

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“We are confident that the maps selected by the Wisconsin Supreme Court will reinstate fairness in Wisconsin’s electoral system and once again put people in charge of their state government,” the Democratic senators said in a press release

Maps should follow the court’s guidelines, Evers says 

The court’s December ruling heavily relied on a provision in Article IV of the Wisconsin Constitution that requires districts be contiguous.

Evers said in a press release his submission is responsive to “the will of the people” and meets the court’s criteria laid out for fair maps:

  • Legislative maps should be contiguous and compact.
  • All districts should have roughly equal populations living within their borders.
  • Maps must comply with the federal Voting Rights Act: a law that bans redistricting models that decrease a minority group’s voting voice.  
  • Maps should not have a partisan sway towards one party over another. 

Additionally, Evers said new maps should increase the number of competitive seats in the Legislature. 

The court can step in if needed 

The justices said they are prepared to adopt new maps if the Legislature and Evers cannot agree on a new plan. 

The court hired two outside consultants — Bernard Grofman from the University of California, Irvine and Johnathan Cervas from Carnegie Mellon University — to review submissions and report back to the justices. 

Their review is due Feb. 1. If the consultants find none of the maps satisfactory, they may submit their own districts or recommend changes. 

Initially, Republican lawmakers asked the court to put its ruling on hold, but the court rejected the request in a 4-3 ruling Thursday. Republican lawmakers may appeal the court’s December ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

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Ava Menkes

Ava Menkes is the state news editor at The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple stories about Wisconsin politics and written in-depth about nurses unions and youth voter turnout. Follow her on Twitter at @AvaMenkes.

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