By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — As expected, Republican lawmakers on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay a ruling last week by the Wisconsin Supreme Court that puts in place Gov. Tony Evers’ political maps.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett set a 5 p.m. Eastern deadline for responses to the filing.
The emergency appeal asserts the Democratic governor’s redistricting plan is an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.
Some Wisconsin legislative Democrats agree.
“Fairness for party might be better, but fairness for people of color show inequities that we have to figure out how to make our voices heard,” state Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) told Fox6 News.
Taylor last week said some Democrats may join the legal fight against Evers’ maps.
“It’s something that has to be talked about, not only for myself but as the Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus, I would assume that we will have that conversation,” said Taylor, who is black. She told Wispolitics.com on Monday that she plans to file her own legal action.
The Republican-controlled Legislature wants the U.S. Supreme Court to freeze the state court’s narrow 4-3 ruling that gave Evers and the Democratic Party a limited redistricting victory.
On Thursday, liberal Justice Brian Hagedorn voted with the three other liberals on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in approving Evers’ redistricting proposal, writing in his majority opinion that, “No other proposal comes close” to following the “least change approach” to the maps.
The conservative members of the court he occasionally aligns with blasted the decision.
“The majority opinion demonstrates a complete lack of regard for the Wisconsin Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause. Short on legal analysis and long on ipse dixit (a dogmatic and unproven statement), the majority opinion amounts to nothing more than an imposition of judicial will,” wrote Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette K. Ziegler in the dissenting opinion.
Legislative Republicans quickly filed a motion alerting the Wisconsin Supreme Court of its intention to seek federal review. They seek a stay while the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the merits of their arguments. Ultimately, the GOP wants an injunction against Evers’ legislative and congressional maps, a move that would implement the Republican redistricting plan in November’s election. They also seek a ruling on the merits of their case.
“Wisconsin is now home to the 21st-century racial gerrymander,” the GOP petition states. “In place of the existing districts, the court adopted the Wisconsin Governor’s proposed redistricting plan. Race dominated the drawing and adoption of this plan, the product of an untheorized and deeply wrong re-writing of the Voting Rights Act.”
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said Republicans aren’t raising a question of partisan outcome but a question of law.
“The Governor, by his own legal argument, targeted minority voters to draw districts on the basis of race,” LeMahieu said. “That is expressly prohibited under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and today we asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the protections guaranteed by the Constitution and federal law.”
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty joined the appeal alleging Evers’ maps violate the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees. The U.S. Constitution makes clear that any government action based on race is subject to strict scrutiny.
“Our government may not make decisions based on race, save for the most extreme circumstances,” said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the Milwaukee-based public interest law firm. “The Governor’s maps establish legislative districts in the Milwaukee-area that violate this fundamental principle.”
Evers’ redistricting plan, drawn in secrecy behind closed doors after his vaunted People’s Maps Commission plan was rejected by both sides of the aisle, drew up seven black Assembly districts. They’re made up of smaller black voter majority percentages — between 50.1 percent and 51.4 percent — than the current maps. They expand potential representation for Democrats at the expense of black voters, critics say. Republicans argue the districts are contrary to the standards laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in determining the imposition of race on political boundaries.
“The Supreme Court of Wisconsin cannot so badly flout this Court’s precedent without correction,” the petition argues.