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Politics & Government

WI Proceeds with GOP Redistricting Plan

Bird's eye view of the Wisconsin state capital at sunset.  The b
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The Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision to select GOP-drawn voting maps come as political candidates begin picking up signatures to get on the ballot for the August primary.

Wisconsin is pushing ahead with a Republican-drawn legislative redistricting plan, after a ruling Friday by the state Supreme Court held the GOP maps were the most race-neutral option.

The state high court previously chose Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' legislative maps, but the decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, which held the state court did not provide enough justification a new Black-majority assembly district called for in Evers' plan was necessary.

Mel Barnes, staff attorney for the legal firm Law Forward, argued in a discussion hosted by the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition Monday the Republican maps violate the Voting Rights Act, opening them up to further potential litigation.

"The purpose of legislation like this, that grew out of the civil rights movement and was a triumph that people around this country organized for and pushed for, was to make sure that we weren't drawing districts in a way that diluted these votes," Barnes asserted.

Under the GOP plan, Milwaukee County will now have five Assembly districts with a majority of Black voters, down from the current six and Evers' planned seven. The U.S. Supreme Court left in place the governor's congressional redistricting plan. Evers issued a statement Friday, writing the ruling was outrageous and "an unconscionable miscarriage of justice."

Republicans would have kept their majorities in the Senate and Assembly under Evers' maps, although to a lesser degree than in the new GOP-drawn maps, which put them a few assembly seats shy of a veto-proof legislative majority.

Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Elections Project, pointed out Evers' maps were already based on lines drawn by Republicans in 2011, as a previous state Supreme Court ruling held new voting maps should be based as much as possible on the current ones.

"So that meant that every option was going to be a gerrymandered map," Chheda contended. "It was just how gerrymandered was it going to be?"

Voting-rights advocates argue Wisconsin's 2011 maps were among the most gerrymandered in the nation. The plan was also challenged to the U.S. Supreme Court, which tossed out the case in 2019 in 2019, arguing it did not have the authority to consider partisan gerrymandering claims. Barring future legal challenges, the new maps will be in place until 2031.

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