The political maps the state's Republican lawmakers drew in 2011 are headed to the nation's highest court. The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will consider Wisconsin's redistricting lawsuit.
At the heart of the legal challenge is whether the new Assembly boundaries that Republicans shaped create districts that are too partisan. Democrats accuse republicans of gerrymandering -- drawing the lines in such a manner that makes it nearly impossible for Democrats to win.
Those who sued say the Assembly maps are unconstitutional, because they deny Democratic voters' say in elections. Republicans disagree. They say the maps reflect the population: districts are mainly blue, or Democratic, in urban areas, while districts elsewhere are mainly red, or Republican.
The Republicans add that the party in power typically creates districts that favor that party, and say Democrats have done the same thing in the past.
The arguments over the maps have been heated for the last six years.
Now that the case is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, state Attorney General Brad Schimel says he's thrilled. He was unhappy with a lower court's ruling, which declared the maps unconstitutional. Schimel urged the Supreme Court to consider the matter. He says the redistricting process was "entirely lawful and constitutional." The two top Republicans in the Legislature, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, say they're confident the Supreme Court will affirm the GOP maps.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty's Rick Esenberg agrees. WILL released this statement:
In this case, what the plaintiffs have effectively asked the Court to do is gerrymander in favor of competitiveness, that is, to draw maps that compensate for the fact that Democrat voters tend to be more geographically concentrated. That’s a political judgment the Court has repeatedly recognized as nonjusticiable.
On the other side, Democrat Peter Barca wants a different outcome. The Assembly Minority Leader says if the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court that Wisconsin's maps are unconstitutional, the justices' decision will "end the terrible polarization we see in both Wisconsin and across America.'' And Sachin Chedda of the Fair Elections Project, which fought the state's maps in court, says he's confident the high court will affirm the lower court ruling.
Citizen Action of Wisconsin released a statement calling for "a nonpartisan redistricting process." Organizer Anna Dvorak says:
A nonpartisan redistricting process is not only fair and impartial, it also would cost taxpayers far less than than the two million tax dollars and counting used to draw and defend the current maps. Legislators should hold a public hearing on the bills so that voters can learn the truth.
The high court's ruling in Wisconsin's case could affect other states, if lawmakers there are accused of creating maps that are "too partisan." Because of that, a lot of people will be watching the outcome. In addition, the case is getting attention because in recent years the court has considered racial inequities in political maps -- but not the issue of how much partisan gerrymandering is reasonable.
The Supreme Court is expected to take up the case in the fall and most likely won't rule before early next year. The timing creates a mystery as to what maps will be in place for the 2018 elections. Last fall, the lower court ordered the Legislature to redraw its maps. But the Supreme Court on Monday said the 2011 Republican maps should stay in place while the court considers the case.