Dem voters urge Wisconsin Supreme Court to strike down ‘unconstitutional’ maps

“Ultimately, we should be able to choose our representatives instead of the other way around,” said Katie Rosenberg, mayor of Wausau, Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will soon make a decision on whether to strike down state Republican-drawn maps that Democratic voters argue discriminate against them, including Black voters in the state.

Last week, the state’s high court heard hours of oral arguments in Clarke v. Wisconsin. 

Supreme Court entrance marble sign plaque in United States legal system. A courthouse room marker inside of Wisconsin state capitol building, Midwest USA. Gilded capital letters carved in stone and traditional architectural interior formality inspire concepts for justice, fairness, and government law. Horizontal format with copy space and no people.

In August 2023, Democratic voters filed a lawsuit against the state, contesting that the maps are “unconstitutional” and contain “extreme partisan gerrymanders” that violate the state’s constitution. The suit requests that the legislative maps be redrawn for failing to be contiguous and reflect all of Wisconsin’s voting population. 

Jonathan Miller, chief program officer at the Public Rights Project, told theGrio that Wisconsin has “the most aggressively gerrymandered state legislative map in the country.” 

He added, “Districts are drawn in such a way so that the populations in those communities don’t have as much weight,” and in some cases, “parts of districts have been completely excluded” and left off the map, ostracizing voters from marginalized communities.

Miller said the maps need to be struck down because “communities of color are not represented” in the legislative body. He added, “That means things like funding and projects aren’t going to be advanced by the legislature.” 

“What does anybody get out of this… having unfair advantage over another?” asked rhetorically Katie Rosenberg, mayor of Wausau. She told theGrio, “It’s truly about power.”

The next step is to “realign the power to the people” and remove power from “the people who have put themselves there,” she added. “Fair maps help all of us have better policies.”

Miller said state Republicans argued on Nov. 21 that since “the court previously signed off on the map, it shouldn’t change its mind so quickly.” 

Mayor Rosenberg said, “The only reason you would be against fair maps is because you want to have unfair policies.”

Voters Black
A sign encouraging Black people to vote sits in the window of a downtown storefront Sunday in Racine, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In 2011, state Republicans drew maps that gave the state’s GOP a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate and a majority in the state Assembly. Last year, the state Supreme Court kept the map in place.

However, the court’s political makeup changed this year when liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz was sworn into office in August, replacing a conservative justice on the court.

Given Protasiewicz’s election to the bench, there is a chance the court could strike down the Republican-drawn maps because she characterized the maps as “rigged” while she campaigned to serve on the court.

Mayor Rosenberg said she agreed with the liberal justice and said, “Ultimately, we should be able to choose our representatives instead of the other way around.”

“It really does matter when people think they have a shot at winning…they don’t want it to be rigged,” she added.

Miller of the Public Rights Project said he believes that the court will strike down the state maps and appoint a “specialist or referee” to help propose redrawn maps for the court to make a final approval.

Rosenberg said that even if the high court appoints a special master to redraw the maps, “We’re still going to need to keep working and make sure that we can have the right policies that lift up all of our communities.”

“Especially those communities of color who have been underrepresented,” she added.

The legal battle in Wisconsin comes weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court appointed a special master to redraw Alabama’s federal election maps. The high court ruled that the southern state’s congressional map discriminated against Black voters and violated their constitutional rights.

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