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Under ‘time pressure,’ Wis. Supreme Court to get back to work on redistricting

The Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out Wisconsin state legislative maps that were preferred by the state’s Democratic governor and selected by Wisconsin’s top
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 10:37 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - In Wisconsin’s ongoing redistricting battle, more work is cut out for the state Supreme Court after the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out legislative maps preferred by the governor.

“There is real time pressure here,” Robert Yablon, associate professor at UW-Madison Law School, said.

He points to the key dates between April 15 and June 1, which according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), are when candidates must collect and file signatures to get on the ballot for the general election.

While candidates must first know the shapes and boundaries of their districts, it’s unclear what legislative maps will be used in the fall.

“There really do need to be maps in place before then [April 15], ideally, with a little bit of wiggle room before then,” Yablon said.

Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the lower court to explain why Wisconsin’s legislative maps were drawn the way they were. The majority opinion argued that it was not clear the court did sufficient analysis to conclude the governor’s preferred map actually warranted “race-conscious districting,” as Yablon described, to reflect the Voting Rights Act.

Yablon also noted that the Supreme Court’s decision only partly sided with state Republicans. “What the Republicans were asking for was that the U.S. Supreme Court formally adopt their map, and the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t do that. Instead, what it said is, ‘The Wisconsin Supreme Court didn’t do the analysis quite right.’”

Only the state’s legislative maps were affected, not its congressional maps.

Critics of Wednesday’s ruling, like The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin’s executive director Debra Cronmiller, said the move will “cause confusion for clerks, candidates and voters as the fall primary and election approach.”

Mel Barnes, a staff counsel for Law Forward, whose clients include the league, said, “Clerks are already working to notify potential candidates of the new district boundaries. voters need to know whose nomination papers they can sign. And candidates need to start making decisions about when and if they will run for office and what districts they would represent if elected.”

Barnes added, “This was an unprecedented and political decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. They have been very clear in the past that meddling by federal courts on the eve of an election is inappropriate.”

Meanwhile, Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, said, “The Wisconsin Supreme Court has a big job, but I think they’re perfectly capable of handling it. They’ve acted quickly in the past when circumstances required it, and I think they can do so again.”

A WEC spokesperson told NBC15 that Wednesday’s ruling does not affect the April 5 election.

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