US Supreme Court reverses Wisconsin court ruling on legislative maps
MarkThomas / Pixabay
US Supreme Court reverses Wisconsin court ruling on legislative maps

The US Supreme Court Wednesday reversed a decision by Wisconsin’s Supreme Court selecting state legislative districts drawn by the governor while also allowing the use of the governor’s congressional district map.

The 2020 census revealed population shifts that necessitated redrawing Wisconsin’s election maps. The Republican-dominated legislature proposed new maps, which were vetoed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers. The Wisconsin Supreme Court was asked to intervene and ultimately selected Evers’ state legislative maps, which created an additional majority-Black district. The governor argued this was necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act (VRA), but legislators argued this violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

In a per curiam decision Wednesday, the Supreme Court concluded that the Wisconsin court had misapplied the Supreme Court’s decisions on balancing the VRA with the Equal Protection Clause when accepting the governor’s state legislative maps.

The question that our VRA precedents ask and the court failed to answer is whether a race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district would deny black voters equal political opportunity. Answering that question requires an “‘intensely local appraisal’ of the challenged district.” … When the Wisconsin Supreme Court endeavored to undertake a full strict scrutiny analysis, it did not do so properly under our precedents, and its judgment cannot stand.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Elena Kagan.

The Court’s action today is unprecedented. In an emergency posture, the Court summarily overturns a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision resolving a conflict over the State’s redistricting, a decision rendered after a 5-month process involving all interested stakeholders. Despite the fact that summary reversals are generally reserved for decisions in violation of settled law, the Court today faults the State Supreme Court for its failure to comply with an obligation that, under existing precedent, is hazy at best.

While the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Wisconsin court regarding the state legislative maps, Justice Amy Coney Barrett turned away a request to block the imposition of the governor’s congressional district map. That order was issued without comment, allowing the Wisconsin court’s decision to stand for now.

Wisconsin’s primary elections are scheduled for August 9, with the general election on November 8. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to consider the role of race in redistricting decisions in a case concerning Alabama’s congressional district map.