The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Friday adopted Republican-drawn maps for the state Legislature, handing the GOP a victory just weeks after initially approving maps drawn by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
The court reversed itself after the U.S. Supreme Court in March said Evers’ maps were incorrectly adopted, and came just as candidates were about to begin circulating nominating papers to appear on this year’s ballot without being sure of district boundaries.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court had adopted Evers’ map on March 3, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it on March 23. The high court ruled that Evers’ map failed to consider whether a “race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district would deny black voters equal political opportunity.”
Evers told the state Supreme Court it could still adopt his map with some additional analysis, or an alternative with six majority-Black districts. The Republican-controlled Legislature argued that its map should be implemented.
The Wisconsin court, controlled 4-3 by conservatives, sided with the Legislature.
“The maps proposed by the Governor … are racially motivated and, under the Equal Protection Clause, they fail strict scrutiny,” Chief Justice Annette Ziegler wrote for the majority, joined by Justices Patience Roggensack, Rebecca Grassl Bradley and Brian Hagedorn.
The Legislature’s maps, they wrote, “are race neutral” and “comply with the Equal Protection Clause, along with all other application federal and state legal requirements.”
Hagedorn, a conservative swing justice, initially backed Evers’ map but reversed himself once the matter came back before the court. In a separate concurrence, he wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court decision required the state court to adopt a race-neutral map, and the Legislature’s maps “are the only legally compliant maps we received.”
The court’s three liberal justices — Jill Karofsky, Ann Walsh Bradley and Rebecca Dallet — dissented. Karofsky, writing for the minority, said the Legislature’s maps “fare no better than the Governor’s under the U.S. Supreme Court’s rationale.”