Wisconsin Supreme Court rules state legislative maps are unconstitutional and must be redrawn News
Royalbroil, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Wisconsin Supreme Court rules state legislative maps are unconstitutional and must be redrawn

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled 4-3 that the state legislature’s assembly district maps are unconstitutional under the Wisconsin Constitution on Wednesday and ordered new remedial maps to be drawn for the 2024 elections.

Justice Jill J. Karofsky authored the majority opinion of the court. Karofsky noted that Article IV Sections 4 and 5 of the Wisconsin Constitution mandate that congressional maps be made up of contiguous territory. Under this contiguity requirement, Karofsky found that congressional districts must be made up of physically adjoining territories and cannot be made up of separate or detached territories. Finding that several assembly districts contain detached parts that are not touching, Karofsky concluded that the state’s current legislative map is unconstitutional.

The three dissenting justices argued that it is primarily the responsibility of the other branches of the state government to redistrict these maps, and it is not the court’s place to do so. Chief Justice Annette Ziegler stated in her dissent that “[t]hese departures from the judicial role are terribly dangerous to our constitutional, judicial framework.” Additionally, Justice Rebecca Bradley stated in her dissent that “[r]iding a Trojan horse named Contiguity, the majority breaches the lines of demarcation separating the judiciary from the political branches in order to transfer power from one political party to another.” Lastly, Justice Brian Hagedorn stated in his dissent that “[n]o matter how today’s decision is sold, it can be boiled down to this: the court finds the tenuous legal hook it was looking for to achieve its ultimate goal——the redistribution of political power in Wisconsin.”

Karofsky noted that the state legislature has the primary responsibility to draw the state’s legislative maps. However, Karofsky justified the majority’s decision by noting that the US Supreme Court has recognized the ability of state courts to remedy unconstitutional legislative districts by crafting new maps and that the court has done this before. While Karofsky ordered new remedial legislative maps to be drawn for the 2024 elections, these remedial maps will only be adopted if the state legislature does not pass legislation that creates a new map before the elections.

This is not the only recent litigation involving electoral maps in the lead-up to the 2024 elections. On Tuesday, two prominent voting rights advocacy groups sued Republican state leadership in North Carolina over the state’s Congressional redistricting plans. Additionally, earlier this month, Georgia’s Republican Legislature leadership unveiled the newest version of the proposed Georgia Congressional Redistricting Map Friday, a month after a federal judge ruled the previous version of the map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and discriminated against Black Georgia voters.