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Wisconsin Supreme Court approves Republicans’ political maps

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — The Wisconsin Supreme Court has rejected Gov. Tony Evers’ racially motivated political maps and implemented the Republican-controlled Legislature’s redistricting plan.

The 4-3 ruling comes less than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court scolded the state court’s earlier ruling approving Evers’ state legislative maps despite their clear violation of the constitution’s equal protection guarantees and the Voting Rights Act.

“Racial motivations drove the Governor’s selection of district lines, and the Supreme Court reasoned that the court relied on insufficient evidence to endorse such race-based decision making,” Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Ziegler wrote in the majority opinion.

“Upon review of the record, we conclude that insufficient evidence is presented to justify drawing state legislative districts on the basis of race. The maps proposed by the Governor, Senator Janet Bewley, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (“BLOC”), and Citizen Mathematicians and Scientists (“CMS”) are racially motivated and, under the Equal Protection Clause, they fail strict scrutiny.”

By contrast, the opinion states, the maps proposed by the Wisconsin Legislature are race neutral. They comply with the Equal Protection Clause, along with all other applicable federal and state legal requirements.

More so, the Republicans’ redistricting plan exhibits minimal changes to current state legislative maps, something the court sought in its “least change” order.

“Therefore, we adopt the state senate and assembly maps proposed by the Legislature for the State of Wisconsin,” the ruling states.

Evers’ really gave the court no choice.

Despite the admonishment that the Democrat governor’s creation of a seventh phantom majority black legislative district in Milwaukee was wholly based on using race to expand Democratic Party control, Evers defended his plan.

So did the court’s three liberals, marked by a rambling, Homeric dissent from Justice Jill Karofsky, insisting the whole system is out of order.

The “swing vote,” Justice Brian Hagedorn, changed his vote after the U.S. Supreme Court basically asked what the hell he and the court’s three liberals were thinking in approving Evers’ maps. Hagedorn ran as a conservative, but has sided multiple times with the liberals in several key decisions.

Hagedorn acknowledged the court did not do the kind of analysis the U.S. Supreme Court required in the maps review process.

“In other words, we did not conduct the sort of fact- specific inquiry and analysis that one sees in federal VRA (Voting Rights Act) cases because we did not view our role as adjudicating a full-blown VRA claim,” the justice said.

The court’s conservative members, however, had warned Hagedorn and the liberals, blasting the original decision approving the governor’s maps.

“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 Ziegler in the dissenting opinion.

Republicans quickly appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking an injunction against Evers’ legislative maps, as well as ruling on the merits of the case. They got it.

The appeal brought by the Legislature and the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) argued that Evers’ maps are a racial gerrymander with the goal of “spreading” black voters among several legislative districts seeking a bare majority in each. Evers’ maps created an additional “majority” district in Milwaukee, from six to seven. Even Democrats criticized the redistricting plan, after rejecting Evers’ so-called “People’s Maps Commission” maps.

“We are pleased that the Court recognized that our Constitution reserves race-based decision-making for the most extreme situations,” said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel for the Milwaukee-based WILL. “The Governor did not justify his race-based redistricting. The Court was right to reject it.”

Sachin Chheda, director of the leftist Fair Elections Project ,moaned the “extremely partisan justices on the State Supreme Court are choosing to kill democracy in 2022. He called the ruling “a major setback in the fight for fair maps.”

Chheda later tweeted, “It’s okay to cry.”

Evers hyperbolically tweeted the redistricting decision “has abandoned our democracy in our most dire hour” for not allowing him to game the system for his party.

The U.S. Supreme Court — in its 7-2 ruling — found Evers’ maps stretched the limits of constitutional protections. They did so in the name of political advantage for Democrats.

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