Wisconsin Supreme Court gives green light to GOP-drawn legislative maps

By a vote of 4-3 the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday accepted legislative redistricting maps developed by Republicans in the state, just weeks after the panel approved the use of boundaries endorsed by Democrat Gov. Tony Evers, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

In giving the green light to the GOP-drawn maps, the court deemed the boundary lines to not be heavily influenced by racial considerations, something the governor’s proposal failed to do.

“The maps proposed by the Wisconsin Legislature are race neutral. The Legislature’s maps comply with the Equal Protection Clause, along with all other applicable federal and state legal requirements,” the court said in its opinion.

It was in early March that the same justices gave their seal approval to Evers’ maps, citing their belief that they were the most compliant with the “least changes” philosophy on re-drawing districts. However, weeks later, the court took another look at the maps and concluded that it had previously misapplied provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act in its prior analysis of the creation of Black majority districts in Milwaukee, as the Washington Examiner noted.

Pursuant to federal law, district maps are not permitted to consider race in most instances, but must do so when boundaries are being drawn in areas with high minority voter concentrations. Here, however, the majority found that Evers had not presented evidence of a Voting Rights Act violation, even though maps were indeed drawn on the basis of race.

“He produced no evidence of electoral history and no district-specific evidence demonstrating that the Black communities he moved among districts would be denied the opportunity to effectivefly participate in democracy absent his proposed district lines,” the opinion declared.

Not surprisingly, Evers blasted the outcome after it was announced, as Wisconsin Public Radio noted, saying, “At a time when our democracy is under near-constant attack, the judiciary has abandoned our democracy in our most dire hour. This is an unconscionable miscarriage of justice for which the people of this state will see no reprieve for another decade.”

Robin Vos, speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, greeted the ruling with relief, stating, “We have thought our maps were the best option from the beginning. We appreciate the court’s due diligence and are glad to move forward with these maps that make the least changes and comply with traditional redistricting criteria.”

The maps as they now stand give Republicans an appreciable advantage as 63 of 99 seats in the Assembly and 22 of 33 Senate seats tilt in favor of the GOP, according to the Journal Sentinel, but with the possibility looming that Democrats will take this fight to federal court ahead of 2024, it remains to be seen how substantial that edge ultimately proves to be.