Gov. Tony Evers celebrated the state Supreme Court picking his maps for Wisconsin’s legislative and congressional districts with a “Hell yes.”
But the fight over the lines that will be in place for the 2022 elections isn’t necessarily over with conservative Justice Pat Roggensack writing she hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will review what she called an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.
The state Supreme Court’s 4-3 ruling late Thursday — penned by Brian Hagedorn — was a win for Dems. While they would still face an uphill battle to win majorities in the Assembly and the Senate, the map is much more favorable than the one submitted by GOP lawmakers.
Under Evers’ map, there are 55 GOP Assembly seats, for example, and 44 districts that have typically voted Dem in recent years.
Under the GOP maps, former President Trump would’ve won 64 of the 99 Assembly seats had those lines been in place in 2020, just short of the two-thirds majority needed for a veto-proof Republican majority.
“Today’s ruling isn’t a victory for me or any political party, but for the people of our state who for too long have demanded better, fairer maps and for too long went ignored — today’s victory is for them,” Evers said.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, slammed the maps, though his statement gave no indication whether an appeal is planned.
“Tony Evers drew racially gerrymandered maps behind closed doors with no public input,” he said. “His maps intentionally watered down minority representation for political gain and violated the open and transparent process the public deserved.”
Meanwhile, attorney Mel Barnes, part of the team that represented a series of groups involved in the lawsuit, called it a “huge step forward from the extreme gerrymander Wisconsin has been living under the last decade.”
Hagedorn wrote the majority picked Evers’ maps because they most closely followed the court’s November directive to take a least-change approach to the lines Republicans drew in 2011 while making adjustments for population changes.
But three of his conservative colleagues slammed that claim. They charged Hagedorn relied on “core retention” as a factor in deciding whether the maps followed the least-change approach even though it wasn’t mentioned as a factor in the November ruling.
Hagedorn wrote Evers’ congressional map moves 324,415 people to new districts, 60,041 fewer than the next best proposal, while complying with the U.S. Constitution and other applicable laws.
The maps from both the guv and GOP lawmakers would move almost the same number of voters from their Senate districts with a core retention of 92.2 percent. But Evers’ Assembly map has a core retention of 85.8 percent — moving 14.2 percent of voters to new districts — while it was 84.2 percent for the GOP map.
“No other proposal comes close,” Hagedorn wrote of Evers’ legislative maps. “And beyond core retention, no other measure of least change alters the picture.”
In her dissent, Chief Justice Annette Ziegler slammed the Evers legislative maps as “unconstitutional and fatally flawed.”
Joined by fellow conservatives Rebecca Bradley and Roggensack, she would’ve adopted the legislative map submitted by GOP lawmakers and the congressional proposal from the Republican members of Wisconsin’s House delegation.
Each justice wrote a minority opinion laying out a series of gripes with the Evers’ maps, including: the deviations between districts was too great; too many communities were split; and Evers was allowed to make changes to his maps after the deadline for submitting proposals, while the GOP members of Congress weren’t.
They also argued it was inappropriate to use core retention as a principle to evaluate the maps because it wasn’t mentioned in the November order requiring a least-change approach to existing lines.
Ziegler wrote the Legislature’s maps — and those submitted by a group of scientists and mathematicians — were the only race-neutral legislative proposals submitted and both performed better than Evers’ proposal under the constitution and the law.
While the GOP maps included five majority Black Assembly districts, the proposal from the scientists and mathematicians included only three.
Evers’ included seven that have a Black voting age population of at least 50 percent. The current map has six, though Evers gets to seven districts by two means.
One, it includes anyone with Black heritage in its calculations of the Black voting age population. It has traditionally been only those who identify as Black or a mixture of Black and white.
Two, the seven districts range from 50.1 percent Black to 51.4 percent for the voting age population. The existing six districts are between 55.6 percent and 68.4 percent, according to Dave’s Redistricting, an online web app often used in analyzing maps.
Ziegler noted the U.S. Supreme Court has established a three-part test to decide if additional majority-minority districts are necessary: “(1) the racial group is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district; (2) the racial group is politically cohesive; and (3) the majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it usually to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate.”
She argued there must be a “violation of the VRA so to invoke its remedy,” but there was no evidence in the record to back that up for Wisconsin’s maps.
“The remedy is to cure the suppressed voter effect by giving minority voters greater voice, not reducing their voice,” Ziegler wrote. “Alone, this statistic puts a dagger in the Governor’s map.”
Evers’ maps include five congressional districts that have typically voted Republican in recent elections and three Dem seats.
Still, the 1st CD in southeastern Wisconsin and the 3rd in the southwestern corner of the state are both highly competitive.
Using numbers from Dave’s Redistricting, the 1st — now represented by Republican Bryan Steil, of Janesville — has an average performance of 49.2 percent Republican and 49.1 percent Dem
The 3rd, which Dem Ron Kind is leaving after almost 26 years in office, has an average performance of 48.7 percent Dem and 48.3 percent Republican.
Under the existing lines, former President Trump won six districts in 2020.
The guv’s Assembly map includes 55 GOP seats and 44 Dem districts, while Trump won 62 of the existing seats in 2020.
And Evers’ Senate map includes 20 GOP seats and 13 Dem districts. Trump won 22 seats under the current maps in 2020.
By comparison, the map GOP lawmakers submitted to the court included: six congressional seats that Trump would’ve won had they been in place for the 2020 election, 22 state Senate districts and 64 Assembly seats.
Evers’ map also pairs three sets of GOP lawmakers: Sens. Alberta Darling, of River Hills, and Dale Kooyenga, of Brookfield; plus Reps. Chuck Wichgers, of Muskego, and Cody Horlacher, of Mukwonago; and Dan Knodl, of Germantown, and Barb Dittrich, of Oconomowoc.