Supreme Court sides with Republican Legislature on Wisconsin redistricting case

The high court ruled that a Wisconsin court had not carefully enough considered the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

Published: March 23, 2022 1:32pm

Updated: March 23, 2022 1:53pm

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with the Republican-led Legislature of Wisconsin on a disagreement over district maps for the state's legislative districts.

In an unsigned order from the high court, the justices reversed a ruling that had favored a map drawn by Gov. Tony Evers and sent it back to Wisconsin's state court to be reviewed again.

The ruling argued that the state court had not appropriately considered whether the Voting Rights Act required the addition of a seventh district in which black voters in Wisconsin would be the majority. 

The map drawn by Gov. Evers increased the number of State Assembly districts around Milwaukee in which black voters (barely) comprised the majority to seven (up from six). The map drawn by the Legislature reduced it to five.

The Legislature argued that the governor's map was unconstitutional.

Justices Sotomayor and Kagan dissented from the court's majority, arguing that the court's action is "unprecedented," and that the body is faulting "the State Supreme Court for its failure to comply with an obligation that, under existing precedent, is hazy at best."

Attorneys for the Republican-led Legislature and several voters had filed an emergency application with the high court, arguing that Gov. Evers' map amounted to a "21s-century racial gerrymander." 

Justice Brian Hagedorn of the Wisconsin Supreme Court initially wrote, "We cannot say for certain on this record that seven majority-Black assembly districts are required" by the Voting Rights Act. "But based on our assessment of the totality of the circumstances and given the discretion afforded states implementing the act, we conclude the governor’s configuration is permissible."

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