Daily Bread for 3.24.22: U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Legislative Maps

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will see scattered rain or snow showers with a high of 38.  Sunrise is 6:49 AM and sunset 7:12 PM for 12h 23m 22s of daytime.  The moon is a waning gibbous with 58.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

 Whitewater’s Community Development Authority meets at 5:30 PM.

On this day in 1721, Johann Sebastian Bach dedicates six concertos to Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt, now commonly called the Brandenburg Concertos, BWV 1046–1051.

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down two decisions yesterday addressing the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling on least-change maps for legislative and Congresional districts. In a terse decision, the federal high court let stand Wisconsin’s least-change maps for the Congressional districts. 

By contrast, in a separate decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Wisconsin’s least-change maps for state legislative districts. Amy Howe of the SCOTUSblog writes of yesterday’s decision that

In an unsigned seven-page opinion, the justices reversed the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision adopting the governor’s map and sent the case back to the state court. The majority explained that by issuing its ruling now, without additional briefing or oral argument, it would give the state court enough time to adopt new maps for the Aug. 9 primary election.

The majority reasoned that, to justify race-based districting, a state must show a good reason to believe that the Voting Rights Act requires such a result. If the Wisconsin Supreme Court regarded Evers as the mapmaker, the majority explained, it was clearly wrong to do so. Evers had contended, without more, that he had drawn an additional majority-Black district because there was a chance to do so – “a sufficiently large and compact population of black residents to fill it.” But even if the Wisconsin Supreme Court saw itself as the creator of the map, it still needs to go back to the drawing board, the majority continued. Among other things, the majority noted, the court could adopt the maps only if it believed the Voting Rights Act required an additional majority-Black district – which, the state court conceded, it could not “say for certain.” When the case returns to the state court, the majority stressed, that court is also “free to take additional evidence if it prefers to reconsider the Governor’s maps.”

In a four-page dissent, Sotomayor noted that summary rulings – those that the Supreme Court issues based on abbreviated briefing and no oral argument – “are generally reserved for decisions in violation of settled law.” But in this case, Sotomayor wrote, the Supreme Court is sending the case back because the state supreme court failed to “comply with an obligation that, under existing precedent, is hazy at best.” What’s more, she wrote, the Supreme Court’s intervention on Wednesday “is not only extraordinary but also unnecessary” because the state court left open the possibility that someone could still bring a challenge to the maps. “I would allow that process to unfold,” she concluded.

A copy of yesterday’s decision, with dissent, appears immediately below.

Download (PDF, 98KB)

It’s uncertain how significantly the federal decision will alter state legislative districts across the state. Wisconsin could reaffirm the least-change maps already selected with additional justifying evidence. Alternatively, the state’s high court could select a different set of legislative maps. If a different set of maps should be chosen, some legislators may rethink their election plans (e.g., Don Vruwink only decided to run after the Wisconsin Supreme Court selected Gov. Evers’s preferred maps, and Dale Kooyenga wasn’t going to run after the state high court picked Evers’s proposal.)

New state maps will have to be in place before the August 9th state primary.

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1 year ago

[…] a decision of the United States Supreme Court in March, on Friday the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor […]