WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Aug. 2, Wisconsin voters filed a petition in the Wisconsin Supreme Court challenging the state’s legislative districts for being extreme partisan gerrymanders that unduly favor Republicans.
According to a press release from the pro-voting groups behind the lawsuit, Wisconsin’s legislative plans are among the most gerrymandered in the country: “Since 2012, even when Democrats have won as much as 53% of the statewide vote, they have held no more than 39 of the 99 Assembly seats. In the same period, even when Republicans have won as little as 44.8% of the statewide vote, they have held no fewer than 60 of the 99 Assembly seats.”
The new petition comes on the heels of recently elected Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz being sworn in yesterday. 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.
Today’s petition argues that Wisconsin’s state Assembly and Senate maps drawn with 2020 census data 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 Wisconsin voters behind the petition ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to block the current legislative maps and order new, fairer maps for future elections. In addition, they ask the court to order elections for all Wisconsin legislative seats in 2024, including special elections 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.”