Competing Redistricting Lawsuits in Federal, State Courts
Liberal groups file in federal court, conservative group asks state Supreme Court to act.
The fight over the drawing of new legislative districts in one of the most gerrymandered states in the country ramped up Monday with two lawsuits filed, one each by liberal and conservative groups.
Those lawsuits, filed in federal and state court, ask for judges to draw new districts ahead of the 2022 elections in anticipation of an impasse between Gov. Tony Evers and the Republican majority that controls the Legislature
With Evers in office, a divided government may be unable to reach a deal on new maps and the job will be sent to the courts.
“Since Governor Evers assumed office in January 2019, the Governor and the Legislature have disagreed on many significant policy issues that appear to fall along partisan political lines,” one of the lawsuits states. “The low likelihood of the Legislature and the Governor reaching agreement on a redistricting plan for state legislative districts in the 2020 cycle is further reflected in the current Legislature’s frequent resort to the courts to challenge executive action in lieu of seeking political compromise.”
That lawsuit, in federal court, was filed by several liberal and voting rights groups — including Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC), Voces de la Frontera and the League of Women Voters. Those groups are represented by the progressive legal firm Law Forward.
That lawsuit alleges that the current districts are unconstitutional and shouldn’t be used again in 2022 if the Governor and Legislature are unable to reach a compromise. The suit states that voters in — the largely Democratic — districts that have grown since 2010 are underrepresented and the voters in the — largely Republican — districts that have shrunk are overrepresented.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin and asks for a federal appellate judge, Diane Sykes, to appoint a panel to draw new maps. Sykes, a conservative, was appointed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003 by former President George W. Bush. Sykes previously served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The other lawsuit, filed by conservative legal outfit, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), on behalf of a number of voters, was filed in the Wisconsin Supreme Court and asks for less drastic changes.
The WILL lawsuit similarly states that the state’s congressional and legislative districts aren’t apportioned correctly due to the release of new census data, but rather than asking for a court to draw a completely new map, asks that the Supreme Court adjust the old one by “making the least number of changes to the existing maps as are necessary.”
WILL’s lawsuit also argues that state court, rather than federal court, is the proper venue for this fight.
“The Petitioners should not be required to resort to a federal court, and only a federal court, to protect their state constitutional rights,” the suit states.
But progressives in the state say the Supreme Court shouldn’t take up the case — arguing it’s too soon for the suit to be in the state’s highest court and isn’t the proper body.
Conservatives currently hold a 4-3 majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The four conservatives were all elected with campaign help from Republicans and have frequently ruled in their favor.
Another lawsuit over redistricting was filed in federal court by Democratic voters last week seeking the same relief as the Law Forward suit. Earlier this spring, Republicans in the Legislature hired outside attorneys in anticipation of a legal fight over redistricting.
As the Legislature, Gov. Evers and a variety of courts work through Wisconsin’s redistricting process, the clock is ticking. Districts for the 2022 elections must be in place by March 15 when the Wisconsin Elections Commission is required by state law to notify local election clerks of the districts.
Competing lawsuits filed in state, federal court as fight over Wisconsin redistricting ramps up was originally published by the Wisconsin Examiner.
- Op Ed: State Supreme Court Wrong To Take On Redistricting Case - Matt Rothschild - Sep 26th, 2021
- GOP Legislators Seek US Supreme Court Help On Redistricting - Laurel White - Sep 25th, 2021
- Republican Legislators Propose Redistricting Bill - Ruth Conniff - Sep 24th, 2021
- State Supreme Court Will Hear Redistricting Case - Laurel White - Sep 22nd, 2021
- Wisconsin Supreme Court Takes WILL Redistricting Case - Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty - Sep 22nd, 2021
- Statement on Tuesday’s Federal Judicial Redistricting Hearing - Fair Elections Project - Sep 22nd, 2021
- Federal Court Could Intervene in Wisconsin Redistricting - Henry Redman - Sep 17th, 2021
- Evers, Kaul File Redistricting Lawsuit - Henry Redman - Sep 14th, 2021
- Gov. Evers, Attorney General Kaul File Motion to Intervene in Redistricting Lawsuit - Gov. Tony Evers - Sep 13th, 2021
- Lawsuits Fight Over State Redistricting - Henry Redman - Sep 8th, 2021
Read more about Gerrymandering of Legislative Districts here