Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Supreme Court on March 3, arguing that a new map of state legislative districts selected by the state Supreme Court violates voting rights law.
State Republicans argue that the redistricting plan constitutes a “21st century racial gerrymander.” In their filing with the United States Supreme Court, they argue that the map dilutes black voting power by reducing the overall percentage of black voters in each district.
But those percentages were reduced in order to add a majority-black seventh district to Milwaukee.
That argument is “a little strange” coming from Republicans, said Mark Gaber, senior redistricting director at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit that represented clients in state litigation who favored the creation of a seventh black district. Indeed, the map that the Republican-controlled state legislature originally drew, and wants the Supreme Court to adopt, has reduced the number of majority black districts from six to five.
“It’s a very aggressive move, and it’s woven with a lot of cynicism,” Gaber said.
Although the Republicans’ argument that the court should reduce black voting power on the legal basis that the alternative has harmed black voters seems particularly cynical, it fits with the Republican Party’s efforts to reduce the power of black votes across the country.
The GOP’s push to block redesigned district maps, approved by state courts, comes after a long legal battle. It started when the state legislature, whose Republican control was already tightened by one of the most extreme cases of gerrymanding in the nation, dating back to 2011, passed a new district map that would further bolster the advantage of the GOP. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed their map.
When the Wisconsin legislature and governor have reached an impasse over redistricting in three of the last four redistricting periods over the past 40 years, they sought a solution in federal courts. But this time, Republicans demanded that the case be taken to Wisconsin state courts. The state Supreme Court currently has a 4-3 conservative advantage.
State courts decided to resolve the impasse by choosing a redistricting map that made the “least change” to the 2011 map, which already heavily favored the GOP. Parties to the lawsuit, including the legislature, the governor and other outside groups, were allowed to submit maps from which the court would choose.
The majority GOP legislature simply submitted the map it passed and Evers vetoed. Evers, however, submitted a new map that moved fewer people to new districts than the legislature map. And in a 4-3 decision, with Tory Brian Hagedorn joining the court’s three Liberals, the court chose Evers’ map because it made the “least change” to the 2011 redistricting.
The court also found compelling arguments that Milwaukee should have a majority-black Seventh District, as the 2020 census showed an increase in the black population.
“In evaluating the information presented by the parties, we conclude that there is good reason to believe that a majority black Seventh District is necessary” to satisfy the Voting Rights Act, Hagedorn wrote for the Majority. . “Governor Evers’ assembly card accomplishes this. For these reasons, we adopt the Senate and State Assembly corrective maps proposed by Governor Evers.
After losing in their home turf, Republicans in Wisconsin have now headed to the federal courts they evaded in 2021. And though the US Supreme Court is now dominated by a 6-3 conservative majority , it is more likely than not that they will reject the decision of the Republican legislature. call.
On March 8, the court rejected two appeals from Republicans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania who wanted the court to launch court-drawn district maps which they opposed. The court rejected these emergency requests based on the argument that such changes come too close to the election and would cause unnecessary confusion and disruption.
The same could be said for the Wisconsin challenge. The state would need to have cards selected by March 1 so candidates could start circulating nomination petitions, Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meghan Wolfe told a court. Status in 2021.
“What we saw with the Pennsylvania and North Carolina cases telegraphed the same message for Wisconsin: The court is not going to rush before this election really starts and changes districts,” said Mel Barnes. , staff attorney at Law Forward, a nonprofit that represented groups opposed to the Wisconsin Legislative Cards in state litigation.
There are other reasons the court is unlikely to side with Republicans in the Wisconsin case.
First, the parties to the emergency petition do not have standing, Gaber said, because they are unlikely to be personally harmed by the Voting Rights Act violations they allege.
“A claim for racial gerrymandering requires a person who lives in the district and is personally affected by the drawing of that district,” Gaber said.
Second, there are no alternative maps that the court could put in place if it overturned the map selected by the state high court. Republicans want the Supreme Court to implement the map they passed but Evers vetoed and the state Supreme Court rejected. The Republican app doesn’t even provide this card to the court.
“They say the Supreme Court should order the map passed by the Legislature, which was vetoed by the Governor, to be put in place – and they haven’t even provided the map to the State Supreme Court. United,” Gaber said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The court is expected to rule on the Wisconsin Legislature’s request next week. There is also an emergency petition in the United States Supreme Court from Republicans in Wisconsin challenging the congressional district map selected by state courts. He faces similar obstacles.