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Monday, February 26, 2024

Wisconsin Supreme Court Declares Gerrymandered Maps Unconstitutional, Paving the Way for Political Shift

In a groundbreaking decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared the state’s heavily gerrymandered legislative maps, favoring Republicans, unconstitutional. The ruling orders the creation of new maps before the 2024 election, potentially leading to a significant political transformation in this crucial presidential swing state.

Justice Jill J. Karofsky, speaking for the majority in the 4-to-3 liberal decision, emphasized that Wisconsin’s current maps violate the State Constitution, specifically the requirement that legislative districts must consist of physically adjoining territory. The court’s shift to a liberal majority this year, following an expensive judicial election, was a pivotal factor in this anticipated ruling.

Justice Janet Protasiewicz, the winner of the election and a vocal critic of the existing legislative maps, had openly denounced them as “rigged” and “unfair.” One day after her swearing-in, voting rights groups and law firms filed a petition on behalf of 19 Wisconsin voters, urging the Supreme Court to hear a redistricting case.

The court’s decision, delivered on Friday, orders lawmakers to produce new legislative maps. If they fail to do so, the court is prepared to implement its own maps. Democrats, who have long faced a Republican-favored legislature despite a nearly equal split in the electorate, see this ruling as an opportunity for significant gains.

Wisconsin’s current legislative composition heavily favors Republicans, with a 64-35 majority in the Assembly and a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate, despite the state’s near-even divide between Democrats and Republicans. Democratic Governor Tony Evers, re-elected in 2022, welcomed the court’s decision, seeing it as a positive step toward fair representation.

Kelda Roys, a Democratic state senator, hailed the ruling as “a great day for democracy in Wisconsin,” expressing optimism about the chance for fair maps that allow voters to choose their leaders.

Republicans, however, indicated that the battle over legislative maps is far from over. Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the State Assembly, criticized the decision, claiming it was predetermined. Vos suggested that the U.S. Supreme Court would have the final say on the matter.

While Democrats celebrate the potential for more competitive seats, Republicans argue that the ruling is a partisan decision. Scott Walker, former Republican governor, dismissed the notion that redrawn maps could lead to Democratic legislative majorities, calling it “not the win the left thinks it is.”

The ruling comes amid heightened polarization and increased politicization of courts across the United States. In Wisconsin, the decision reflects the changing dynamics of a court that has seen a shift in its majority, mirroring similar situations in other states.

Justice Annette Ziegler, a conservative justice, delivered a fiery dissent, condemning the liberal majority as “robewearers” engaging in a partisan effort to reshape Wisconsin’s political landscape. The dissent reflects the deep-seated divisions surrounding the issue, underscoring the broader trend of courts becoming arenas for political battles.

The decision has broader implications for the 2024 presidential election, as a redrawn legislative map could potentially create more competitive districts, influencing voter turnout. Democrats are optimistic about the prospect of a fairer representation of voters’ voices.

In the aftermath of this ruling, the focus shifts to the intricate process of redrawing legislative maps and the potential impact on Wisconsin’s political landscape. The decision marks a significant step toward addressing gerrymandering, offering a renewed sense of hope for a more equitable and representative democracy in Wisconsin.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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