Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Fairer Voting Maps Process Moving Rapidly Forward in 2024

For release: Tuesday - January 9, 2024

Image: Entrance to the Wisconsin Supreme Court Chamber. Photo E Grunze

Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision to Overturn 2021-22 Redistricting Process

In what most Wisconsinites in the future will remember as a welcome holiday gift, the new, pro-democracy, pro-voter majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court on December 22nd issued a decisive, landmark decision that could likely result in state legislative districts and voting maps that far more accurately reflect the nearly even, 50/50 partisan divide that has long characterized Wisconsin.


The 4 to 3 vote by the court majority in Clarke v. W.E.C. declared the state legislative districts devised by Republicans during 2021-22 and ultimately selected by the previous majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to be unconstitutional and that new districts must be drawn and put into place for the 2024 elections.


New state legislative maps must be submitted to the court by Friday, January 12th, and responses and reactions to those maps are due by January 22nd. Experts selected by the court must file written reports about the maps that have been submitted and, if those maps don’t comply with the court’s order, those experts will submit their own maps. And then by February 8th, all responses to the expert reports must be submitted.


The court will then deliberate and choose the maps that will be in place for 2024 by March 15th, at the latest. Those maps must then be entered into the Wisconsin voter database, which will take time and a great deal of energy and effort to accomplish before the 2024 election calendar commences shortly after that date. Then, legislative candidates will begin circulating nomination papers in the newly redrawn districts beginning on April 15th.


The primary basis for the majority decision is that 50 of the 99 Assembly districts and 20 of the 33 State Senate districts devised by the Republican majority in 2021-22 contain non-contiguous territory in them – essentially non-connected “islands” in the districts which are in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution. That is a much greater degree of non-contiguousness in state legislative districts than had previously been thought to exist by the vast majority of observers. And this is clearly a solid and necessary rationale for new district maps to be drawn for 2024.


The fact that contiguity is a state requirement for redistricting and not a federal matter also means that the decision in Clarke v. W.E.C. is less likely to be accepted and reviewed on appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court according to most legal experts, contrary to the recent assertions by Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos that the nation’s highest court will “have the last word” on the case. Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court has been neither consistent nor predictable in recent years so what they may ultimately decide to do is unknown. But for now, it would seem that the majority opinion of the Wisconsin Supreme Court will prevail and that new voter maps will be implemented this year.


The court majority made it clear that their preference would be for the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature to redraw the unconstitutional maps but also that they be not only constitutional but also that they must be maps that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers could agree to, approve and sign into law. But until such agreement occurs, the court has further ordered that “remedial” maps, drawn by redistricting experts it has hired, be put into place by the March 15th deadline.


Republican legislative leaders and pro-partisan gerrymandering conservative interest groups and their lawyers have appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to delay the issuance of new, constitutional voter maps, presumably until 2026 pleading “there isn’t time” for them to devise fairer, constitutional maps in time for the 2024 elections. But this transparently deceptive and less than truthful assertion will almost certainly be rejected by the court majority and the process will continue to move forward under the timetable set by the court and dictated by the election year calendar.


CC/WI is following the developments in this critically important legal and political matter very closely and, together with our allies and fair maps experts, will be analyzing the maps being submitted by many entities in the days and weeks ahead. We may even weigh in on what maps we feel are best suited and most fair for the voters of Wisconsin for 2024 and beyond.


For the first time since 2011 – nearly 13 years ago – fairer and constitutional state legislative district voting maps that more accurately reflect the will and political views of the voters of Wisconsin are in sight. We will continue to push for this fundamental reform not only for the critical 2024 elections but for future redistricting processes in 2031 and beyond.


On Wisconsin! Forward.

Jay Heck


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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