WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sept. 22, the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted a petition challenging Wisconsin’s congressional and legislative district maps following the release of 2020 census data. The petition, filed by the conservative group Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) on behalf of voters, argues that the state’s current maps are malapportioned in violation of the constitutional principle of one person, one vote and asks the court to require that new maps are used for future elections. The suit also asks the court to intervene in the redistricting process in the event that either maps passed by the Wisconsin Legislature are challenged or the state government fails to enact new maps in time for the 2022 election. In agreeing to hear the case, the state Supreme Court emphasized that “that judicial relief becomes appropriate in reapportionment cases only when a legislature fails to reapportion according to constitutional requisites in a timely fashion after having had an adequate opportunity to do so” and asked for input from the parties on when the court should intervene in the process. Conservative justices currently hold a slim majority on the state Supreme Court.
The order granting the petition comes one day after a federal court held a status conference and scheduled a trial for a federal redistricting case also suing for fair maps in Wisconsin. The federal case, Hunter v. Bostelmann, was consolidated with a similar case, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities v. Spindell, last week after multiple motions to dismiss and a motion to stay were denied. Of particular note to the state court case, the federal court rejected the WILL plaintiffs’ motion to indefinitely pause the case while WILL’s lawsuit is adjudicated in state court, pointing out that federal courts have intervened in Wisconsin’s last three redistricting cycles when the state could not agree on new maps. In its own order granting the WILL petition, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that it “has long deemed redistricting challenges a proper subject for the court’s exercise of its original jurisdiction.”