Wisconsin Supreme Court Chooses Governor’s ‘Least Changes’ Redistricting Plan for Congressional and Legislative Districts

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Thursday it would use the “least changes” redistricting plans submitted by Governor Tony Evers as Wisconsin’s congressional and legislative district maps for the next decade. In the 4-3 decision, conservative swing Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote that of all the plans submitted, Evers’ plan best complied with criteria laid out by the court and met all the requirements of the Wisconsin and United States constitutions.

Choosing Governor Evers maps over competing plans submitted by Republican members of Congress and the Legislature was, under the circumstances, a win for Democrats. In the Legislature, it could mean the difference between simple Republican majorities and supermajorities that could override any governor’s vetoes.

While the state Supreme Court’s say is typically final in the state court system, Justices Ziegler and Roggensack took the unusual steps of suggesting appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, suggesting Evers’ plan amounted to a racial gerrymander.

Compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act, or VRA, is likely to be a key part of any future litigation. Evers’ map creates seven majority-Black districts, one more than the 2011 map. Hagedorn wrote that Evers’ map gives minority voters better representation. “The risk of packing Black voters under a six-district configuration further suggests drawing seven majority-Black districts is appropriate to avoid minority vote dilution,” Hagedorn wrote.  However, Ziegler wrote the creation of a new majority-Black district was premature, arguing no clear violation of the Voting Rights Act was shown by Evers.

It would be unusual, though not unheard of, for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s redistricting ruling.  The map could still be challenged on a more limited basis in an ongoing federal lawsuit brought by Democrats. That case had remained largely dormant while the state lawsuit proceeded.