Posted by on November 21, 2023 5:42 pm
Categories: News Washington Examiner

Wisconsin Supreme Court hears challenges to political maps and questions timing of lawsuit

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates Republican-backed Dan Kelly and Democratic-supported Janet Protasiewicz participate in a debate Tuesday, March 21, 2023, in Madison, Wisconsin. Morry Gash/AP

Wisconsin Supreme Court hears challenges to political maps and questions timing of lawsuit

Barnini Chakraborty November 21, 05:03 PM November 21, 05:03 PM Video Embed

The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments for more than three hours Tuesday in a high-stakes voting rights case that could upend the state’s election maps, put every member of the legislature up for reelection next year, and play a role in the 2024 presidential race.

Wisconsin is one of the country’s most politically competitive states, and how the high court decides the case could have a major impact on state and national politics.


Critics claim the state’s current political maps are unfair and have led to Republicans having a lock on political power. The GOP holds a two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate and also outnumbers Democrats in the Assembly.

Democrats believe the gerrymandered maps do not reflect fair representation, and attorneys on behalf of 19 voters who represent the districts the Democrats want to recast argued the maps should be changed.

The court’s three conservative justices opposed the four liberal justices’ decision to take up the challenge to the state’s legislative maps and were quick to question the timing of the case — filed one day after the majority on the court flipped on Aug. 1 and just two years after a previous case.

Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley interrupted Campaign Legal Center attorney Mark Gaber within seconds of his remarks to the court, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“Everybody knows that the reason we’re here is because there was a change in the membership of the court,” Bradley said.

Bradley was referring to this year’s election of Justice Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal, over former Justice Daniel Kelly, a conservative, to the court. Protasiewicz’s win wrangled control from conservatives, who had been in power for 15 years, and could make her the deciding vote on political maps, abortion rights, and perhaps even the 2024 presidential race.

On the campaign trail, Protasiewicz spoke about the gerrymandered maps and abortion, and after her win, Republicans launched multiple pressure campaigns to force her to recuse herself from the case, which she has refused to do.

Gaber disputed Bradley’s reading of why the case was brought before the court, arguing the question of whether the state’s legislative districts are unconstitutionally noncontiguous would have made its way to the court regardless of who won the election.

The lawsuit also argued that by adopting political maps vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) in 2021, the high court violated the separation of powers rules. It alleged that Wisconsin’s guarantee of a “free government” has been violated because it requires “the government to adhere to moderation, temperance, and justice.” The lawsuit is seeking redrawn maps before the 2024 election.

Attorneys for the Republican senators named in the case called the challenge to the maps a “collateral attack” on a previous state Supreme Court ruling after the balance of power had shifted.

They also urged the court to dismiss the lawsuit and “reject the invitation to exercise raw political power.”

During the oral arguments, the conservative justices questioned whether siding with the plaintiffs would invalidate legislative actions taken by lawmakers.

“There’s many intonations about democracy throughout the briefing,” Bradley said. “I can’t imagine something less democratic than unseating most of the legislature that was duly elected last year.”


Despite Protasiewicz’s outsize presence ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, she mostly took a back seat in questioning the parties.

It is unclear when the court will rule on the case, but any new maps must be in place by March 15, 2024, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

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