Tuesday, March 29, 2022

U.S. Supreme Court Decision to Block Wisconsin Legislative Redistricting Plan May Require Only Minor Revision

Tuesday - March 29, 2022

Cartoon Illustration by Phil Hands - Wisconsin State Journal

Keep Pressuring the Legislature to Pass Redistricting Reform!

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rendered a surprising and disturbing decision, rejecting the state legislative redistricting plan adopted earlier this month by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. It sent the plan back to Wisconsin for "reconsideration" and correction. It was somewhat unexpected because SCOTUS had recently rejected Republican legislative appeals to strike down redistricting plans adopted by the state supreme courts of North Carolina and Pennsylvania on the basis that such intervention would cause voter confusion by changing the voting maps so close to the upcoming 2022 elections. But SCOTUS did not apply that sensible reasoning to Wisconsin.

"It is unprecedented interference with Wisconsin's state maps after the administration of our elections (for 2022) has already begun." said Mel Barnes, a redistricting expert and attorney for Law Forward of the SCOTUS decision. The Wisconsin Elections Commission and local election clerks have already started preparations for this year's elections based on the state legislative and congressional districts approved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The SCOTUS decision applies only to the state legislative (Assembly and State Senate) voting maps that had been accepted from Gov. Tony Evers and approved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The congressional redistricting plan submitted by Evers and adopted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court were not affected by the SCOTUS ruling and cannot be changed. Those maps will be in effect for the 2022 election.

But the state legislative maps were struck down because SCOTUS determined that there was insufficient evidence cited in the Wisconsin Supreme Court-adopted plan to justify the creation of a seventh majority-black Assembly district in Wisconsin in the Milwaukee area, from the current six. Barnes and other legal experts have determined that the Wisconsin Supreme Court could possible remedy this situation and satisfy the concerns of SCOTUS by submitting in more detail, the research and legal rationale it utilized in determining compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the creation of an additional majority-minority Assembly district in Wisconsin. Or, it could possibly address SCOTUS concerns by revising from seven to six, the number of black-majority Assembly districts.

Such adjustments would not require the redrawing of the entire state legislative voting maps and the rest of the state maps could remain essentially the same with the revisions occurring only in the Milwaukee area in the majority minority districts in question. A similar, limited re-drawing of state Assembly maps occurred after the 2011 redistricting process in which two Assembly districts had to be revised but the remainder of the Assembly districts remained as majority-Republicans had drawn them.

Lawyers for the Republican legislative leadership and the even-more heavily G.O.P. gerrymandered plan passed by the Legislature (and vetoed by Gov. Evers) last year are asserting that SCOTUS should simply adopt their maps rather than those submitted by Gov. Evers and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. That's just outrageous and ridiculous, even. The concerns put forward by SCOTUS could be adequately addressed by making limited revisions to the current legislative voting maps submitted by Evers and the Wisconsin Supreme Court majority.

The Wisconsin Supreme can and must act very quickly. This week, even, so that preparation for the August partisan primary and November general elections can proceed.

There are other alarming developments to be wary of as well. Three of the seven current members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court have recently signaled a willingness to consider "permitting" the Legislature to pass gerrymandered redistricting plans through a process involving the utilization of a joint resolution, which would not be subject to a gubernatorial veto. Such an action, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional in 1964, would permit majority Republicans to ram through another hyper partisan gerrymander unencumbered. But for the time being, that is not an active concern.

What is an active consideration and very clear, regardless of how both the Wisconsin Supreme Court and SCOTUS ultimately rule in the weeks ahead, is that the push for redistricting reform must continue during the remainder of 2022. It needs to be a prominent issue in the 2022 election and the adoption of a non-partisan redistricting process based on the system our neighboring state of Iowa has had in place since 1980, must be a front and center priority for all of us now, more than ever.
Legislation, with bipartisan support, to establish a similar process in Wisconsin, has been introduced in the last seven legislative sessions and has not received so much as a public hearing since 2009.
Here is what you can do: contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and demand that they support the bipartisan redistricting reform legislation introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature last June based Iowa's non-partisan redistricting process. Senate Bill 389 and Assembly Bill 395 is the "Iowa Model" legislation whose lead sponsors are State Sen. Jeff Smith and State Rep. Deb Andraca, who discussed the measures in this August 17th CC/WI webinar.
It is simple and very easy to use the tool Common Cause developed to write to both your State Senator and your State Representative and demand a public hearing and then a vote on SB 389 and AB 395 in the weeks ahead, before the 2022 election season kicks into high gear. While the Wisconsin Legislature has "adjourned" for the year to campaign for the 2022 elections, they could easily convene again in Extraordinary Session to consider and pass SB 389/AB 395. Demand that they do so!
Take less than a minute and do it now, even if you have before, because repeating your demand for reform is effective and necessary.
Thank you for your continued activism,
Jay Heck


Demand that the Legislature meet in Extraordinary Session to pass SB 389/AB 395 and make the redistricting reforms that Wisconsinites want and need. Write your state senator and representative a letter TODAY. (This form makes it simple and very easy to make your voice heard.)

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

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