The district maps drawn by the Republican party have been invalidated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. This decision may bring significant changes to the politically divided state.

The district maps drawn by the Republican party have been invalidated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. This decision may bring significant changes to the politically divided state.

In 2022, Republican Senator Ron Johnson was reelected in Wisconsin with a narrow majority of approximately 25,000 votes. This was another close victory in the state, which had previously awarded its 10 Electoral College votes to former President Donald Trump in 2016 by a margin of 22,000 votes before switching to President Joe Biden in 2020.

The state was won by approximately 20,000 votes.. 

However, despite the state’s track record of narrowly winning elections, the Wisconsin Assembly is currently dominated by Republicans, with 64 members from the party compared to 35 Democrats. This is a significant development.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court made a decision in late December.

Eliminating the district boundaries created by the GOP could jeopardize their hold on power and alter the political landscape of the state.

Despite assurances from Republicans to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the final decision on the matter will be left to the U.S. Supreme Court, they are now suggesting that they may bring the battle to protect Wisconsin’s electoral maps, which have consistently benefited their party, to the higher court.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos stated to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they will address any federal matters that arise from the redistricting lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court, following the decision of the state Supreme Court.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court listens to arguments during a redistricting hearing at the state Capitol on Nov. 21, 2023, in Madison.

On November 21, 2023, the Wisconsin Supreme Court holds a redistricting hearing at the state Capitol in Madison, where they listen to arguments.

The photo was taken by Ruthie Hauge for The Capital Times via AP.

On Friday, a 4-3 decision stated that the current district lines drawn by the GOP are unconstitutional and do not meet the state constitution’s requirement for “contiguous territories.” The new map, which will go into effect in March 2024, will result in all 132 state lawmakers facing reelection in a crucial year. This presents Democrats with a chance to challenge the Republican dominance in the state’s legislature.

If the distribution of power in the legislature becomes more balanced, the updated map may have consequences for important matters like abortion. This was previously dismissed by Republicans as a potential addition to the 2024 ballot.

Nicole Safar, the head of Law Forward, a nonprofit legal organization representing the 19 Democratic voters in the lawsuit against the current map, stated that invalidating the gerrymandered map will increase voter participation in the legislative process.

Safar stated that in the upcoming legislative session of 2025 and 2026, there will be a new opportunity for citizens to influence the policies created by our legislature. There will be active efforts such as organizing, lobbying, and campaigning focused on issues like abortion rights, gun safety, and public education.

The legal action was initiated in August, not long after the ruling of the state’s highest court judge.Janet Protasiewicz

After taking the oath, the Wisconsin Supreme Court shifted from having a conservative majority to a liberal one. This election for the state’s Supreme Court was the most costly in US history, with Democrats spending more than $50 million. In TV ads, Protasiewicz criticized the maps as being biased and spoke about her stance on abortion rights.

Chief Justice Annette Ziegler, a conservative, referenced Protasiewicz’s previous statements in her dissenting opinion on the lawsuit. She contended that the liberal majority was the reason for the consideration of the gerrymandering case.

Ziegler stated that there is evidence suggesting a biased and politically motivated approach, rather than an objective and cautious one, which goes against the intended role of the judiciary in the Constitution.

The Republicans argued that the new map would result in the formation of additional districts favorable to Democrats before the 2024 election. They had requested for Protasiewicz to remove herself from the situation.

Speaker Vos went as far as to mention impeachment as a consequence if Protasiewicz did not comply. But, in a news conference in October, the Republican leader announced that they would temporarily set aside impeachment charges and take any rulings on Republican-drawn maps and other conservative issues to the U.S. Supreme Court if the state Supreme Court made a decision.

After the state’s Supreme Court decision to invalidate the previous political map, it is anticipated that the state legislature and Governor Tony Evers, who is a Democrat, will come to a consensus on a new map.

In the event that a compromise cannot be reached, the state’s highest court will intervene and evaluate maps based on the political composition of the state, in accordance with Justice Jill Karofsky’s viewpoint.

Evers, who has heavily relied on his veto powers to prevent the Republicans’ plans during his time in office, stated: “I am convinced that a GOP-dominated Legislature that has consistently manipulated district boundaries to secure partisan majorities for over a decade is incapable of creating just and nonpartisan maps that truly represent the people of this state. I concur with the Court’s ruling that these maps are unconstitutional due to the lack of continuity in the districts. Wisconsin is a politically diverse state, and I am eager to present maps to the Court for consideration and review that accurately reflect the demographics of our state. I remain optimistic that the gerrymandered maps that Wisconsinites have endured for years may finally become a thing of the past.”

Per Mark Gaber, a senior executive at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization aiming to reduce political bias in redistricting, it is expected that the new map will not significantly benefit either Republicans or Democrats.

According to Gaber, Wisconsin is a state that experiences significant political division and tight election races, particularly in down-ballot races.

Although Democrats are rejoicing over the redrawing of district boundaries in the state, Gaber believes that the decision should be seen as a victory for both parties. This is because the updated map will better reflect the diverse electorate, which he describes as a mix of red and blue.

Allison Novelo