The United States Supreme Court ruled March 23 that redistricting maps for the state legislature created by Governor Tony Evers under a Wisconsin Supreme Court-ordered “least change” requirement contain a racial gerrymander. The nation’s top court sent the maps back to the state’s top court, and ordered it to hold proceedings to fix these maps or approve different ones.
At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to overturn the “least change” congressional maps submitted by Evers and approved by a majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, meaning those new district boundaries will be in place for the fall 2022 election.
The issue at the heart of the legislative maps is whether it was lawful to expand the number of Milwaukee-area Assembly seats with a majority of Black voters. In the maps approved in 2011, there have been six districts with a majority of Black voters. The maps submitted by Evers would increase that number to seven districts, by adjusting the lines and lowering the percentage of Black voters in each district to just above the 50% mark.
After the Wisconsin Supreme Court approved the governor’s “least change” legislative maps, Republican lawmakers and a conservative legal group asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in, saying the Evers maps illegally used race as a primary factor in drawing the district lines.
The issue of the legislative maps now returns to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which may pursue a number of options.
“On remand, the court is free to take additional evidence if it prefers to reconsider the Governor’s maps rather than choose from among the other submissions,” stated the U.S. Supreme Court’s order.
Essentially, the Wisconsin high court can ask parties to submit a revised version of the Evers maps that would keep the number of majority Black districts at six, or it could reverse its earlier decision and choose the maps submitted by the Republicans in the state Legislature, which contained six black districts in Milwaukee.