Second Legal Challenge to Wisconsin’s Gerrymandered Legislative Maps Filed in State Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Aug. 4, a group of Wisconsin-based mathematicians and computer scientists filed a petition in the Wisconsin Supreme Court challenging the state’s legislative districts for being extreme partisan gerrymanders that unduly favor Republicans. The new lawsuit comes on the heels of a separate lawsuit over Wisconsin’s legislative maps that was filed last Tuesday in the state Supreme Court.

Both lawsuits were filed just days after Judge Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in as a newly elected Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. The start of Protasiewicz’s decade-long term ushers in a new liberal majority on the court. Previously, the state Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled to replace legislative maps drawn by Gov. Tony Evers (D) with ones drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature. As of January 2023, Republicans hold a supermajority of 22 out of 33 seats in the state Senate, and 64 out of 99 seats in the state Assembly. 

The pro-voting petitioners in the most recent lawsuit rely on data analysis and “computational redistricting” methods to allege that the Wisconsin state Assembly and Senate maps districts drawn after the 2020 census are pro-Republican gerrymanders. According to the petition, “computational redistricting methods” involve utilizing “high-performance computers to draw maps that attempt to optimize multiple redistricting criteria.” “Petitioners’ votes have been intentionally, severely, durably, and unjustifiably diluted by the Legislative Plans because they live in districts that needlessly ‘crack’ or ‘pack’ Democratic voters,” the lawsuit states. 

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 redistricting requirements set forth in the state constitution. 

The lawsuit adds 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. “[T]his Court effectively overrode the Governor’s veto to effectively enact the Legislature’s plans into law, ignoring the Constitution’s rule that only the Legislature, by a two-thirds vote of both houses, can override a gubernatorial veto,” the petition asserts. 

The Wisconsin-based experts and professors behind the challenge ask the state Supreme Court to block the current legislative maps and order new, fairer maps for future elections that comply with the Wisconsin Constitution. Additionally, they request that the court order special elections in 2024 for certain state senators whose terms would not otherwise expire until 2027, arguing that these lawmakers were elected under unconstitutional maps.

Read the petition here.

Learn more about the case here.