State of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Legislative Redistricting Challenge (Clarke) 

Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission

Petition filed in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on behalf of Wisconsin voters challenging the state’s legislative maps that were drawn following the release of 2020 census data. The petitioners allege that the Wisconsin state Assembly and Senate maps are extreme partisan gerrymanders that unduly favor Republicans in violation of the state constitution. The petition notes that for the past two decades, Wisconsin’s legislative plans have been among the most gerrymandered in the country: “In 2012, Republicans won 48.6% of the statewide vote, which yielded a remarkable 60 assembly seats…When Democrats received roughly the same vote share, they carried 36 assembly seats… From the 2012 through the 2020 elections, Republicans never fell below 60 seats—winning up to 64, or nearly two-thirds of the seats. In 2018, Republicans won 63 seats with just 44.8% of the vote.” 

The petitioners argue that Wisconsin’s legislative districts violate multiple provisions of the state constitution, including the constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, free speech and association and free government as well as the constitutional requirement that districts be contiguous. The petitioners also contend that the legislative districts violate the state constitution’s separation of powers rule, since the districts — which were ultimately imposed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in April 2022 — are the very same maps that the governor vetoed and the Legislature failed to override. “By judicially overriding that gubernatorial veto in the Legislature’s stead, this Court transgressed separation-of-powers boundaries and impermissibly intruded upon core powers of the executive and legislative branches,” the petition states. The petitioners ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to block the current legislative maps and order new, fairer maps for future elections. Finally, the petitioners ask the court to order special elections in 2024 for certain state senators whose terms would not otherwise expire until 2027, arguing that “[b]ecause they were elected from unconstitutionally configured districts, they lack legal entitlement to their office.” 

On Oct. 6, 2023, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision agreeing to hear the case. On Dec. 22, 2023, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the state’s legislative maps violate the state constitution’s contiguity requirement and must be redrawn for the 2024 elections. On Dec. 28, 2023, the Wisconsin Legislature asked the court to reconsider its decision striking down the state’s legislative maps. The court denied the motion on Jan. 11, 2024. In February 2024, Wisconsin enacted new legislative maps that comply with the state constitution.

STATUS: Litigation concerning fees is ongoing in the state Supreme Court.

Case Documents

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