Court Battles

Supreme Court turns away Wisconsin GOP challenge to congressional map

Greg Nash

The Supreme Court on Wednesday turned away an effort by Republican U.S. lawmakers from Wisconsin to challenge their state’s new congressional voting map, handing a win to Democrats ahead of the November midterm elections.

The court’s ruling, which came in a brief unsigned order, left intact a map drawn by the state’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers following the 2020 census and approved by Wisconsin’s top court.   

The ruling rebuffed a legal challenge brought by the five Republicans on Wisconsin’s eight-member delegation to the U.S. House, who had urged the justices to reverse the state court’s approval of the new congressional districts.

In a separate ruling Wednesday, the Supreme Court took issue with the Wisconsin court’s approval of a Democratic-drawn map that created new districts for state legislators. Over a dissent from two of the court’s more liberal justices, the unsigned ruling returned the case to the Wisconsin Supreme Court after finding the court may have misapplied federal voting rights law. 

The Supreme Court majority instructed the Wisconsin court to more closely scrutinize Democratic mapmakers’ argument that the creation of an additional majority-Black assembly district was required under the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the 1965 federal law that protects the franchise of minority voters.

“The question that our VRA precedents ask and the court failed to answer is whether a race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district would deny black voters equal political opportunity,” the majority wrote.

In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, called the court’s action “unprecedented.”

“In an emergency posture, the Court summarily overturns a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision resolving a conflict over the State’s redistricting, a decision rendered after a 5-month process involving all interested stakeholders,” Sotomayor wrote. “Despite the fact that summary reversals are generally reserved for decisions in violation of settled law, the Court today faults the State Supreme Court for its failure to comply with an obligation that, under existing precedent, is hazy at best.”

–Updated at 1:48 p.m.

Tags Congressional maps Elena Kagan Gerrymandering Redistricting SCOTUS Sonia Sotomayor Supreme Court Tony Evers Wisconsin
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