Wisconsin Voters Mount Renewed Challenge to Congressional Map in State Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday evening, a group of Wisconsin voters asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reopen previous litigation over the state’s congressional map and allow for the implementation of new districts that comply with the state’s operative redistricting criteria before the 2024 elections. 

This action comes on the heels of the state Supreme Court’s December 2023 ruling in Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, a case challenging the state’s legislative maps. In its 4-3 ruling in Clarke, the court’s liberal majority held that Wisconsin’s legislative districts violate the state constitutional requirement that districts be contiguous, meaning touching, and ordered the implementation of a new set of legislative maps prior to the 2024 elections. 

In yesterday’s motion — which was filed in a pre-existing redistricting case known as Johnson v. Wisconsin Elections Commission — Wisconsin voters argue that the state’s congressional map must be redrawn in accordance with the court’s recent ruling in Clarke. The motion underscores that in its Clarke opinion, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled its previous decisions in the Johnson case governing the state’s approach to redistricting. 

In particular, the voters maintain that the Clarke decision overturned what is known as the “least change” approach to redistricting — a principle that the state Supreme Court adopted in the Johnson case and applied when ordering the implementation of the state’s current congressional map following an impasse between the governor and the Legislature after the 2020 census. 

Under this now-defunct principle, the court required the state to make the minimum changes necessary to its previous legislative and congressional maps. In April 2022, the Johnson litigation culminated in the court’s selection of the Legislature’s proposed “least change” congressional map instead of the governor’s proposed districts, which the court’s then-conservative majority referred to as being “racially motivated.” 

In addition to arguing that the state’s current congressional map violates the state Supreme Court’s newly clarified redistricting criteria, the voters in Tuesday’s motion contend that the map “suffers from serious partisan unfairness” and violates the separation of powers principle. According to the filing, “Republicans won 75% of the state’s congressional seats despite winning only 50% of the statewide vote,” making the map “an extreme outlier favoring Republicans.” The state is currently represented by six Republicans and two Democrats in Congress. 

The Wisconsin voters request that parties in the Johnson case be permitted to “submit remedial congressional plans that satisfy Wisconsin’s judicial redistricting criteria for congressional maps as clarified by Clarke” and ask the court to select a new congressional map in time for the 2024 elections. “Equity, justice, and the public interest favor elections conducted using congressional boundaries that comply with state law,” the motion states, emphasizing that “absent a course correction, an avowedly lawless map will remain in effect until at least 2031 and will govern four rounds of congressional elections.”

Read the motion here.

Learn more about the case here.