Wisconsin GOP Gets SCOTUS Win as Democrats' State Districts Tossed

The Supreme Court has rejected a set of legislative district maps for Wisconsin's state Legislature in a ruling issued Wednesday.

The state maps were discarded while the congressional districts were allowed to remain in place as the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which previously selected maps preferred by Democratic Governor Tony Evers, according to the Associated Press.

Redistricting battles have taken place across the country as new legislative maps are drawn to reflect population changes reported in the 2020 Census, with accusations of gerrymandering and unfair districts coming from both Democrats and Republicans. Several states, like Ohio, Kansas, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, among others, have seen court battles slow the process.

The Wisconsin Legislature and Evers were at an impasse in the creation of new maps, which led to the state Supreme Court picking between maps proposed by the various parties. It picked maps proposed by Evers, which contained seven majority-Black districts, one more than what existed in previous maps, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling stated.

Republican critics of the Evers-backed maps claimed that the maps moved too many people into districts that were majority Black and Hispanic, in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the AP reported.

In its earlier ruling, the Wisconsin Supreme Court did not say definitively whether the additional district was required but approved the new maps because it found them to follow the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court said that striking down the state districts and sending the case back to the state Supreme Court gave all sides enough time to put new maps in place by Wisconsin's August 9 primary election.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote a dissenting opinion to the unsigned ruling, calling the decision by the other justices "unprecedented."

"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," the justices wrote.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of adopting Evers' maps, with one conservative justice siding with the three liberal-leaning justices on the court, the AP reported. Republicans quickly appealed to the Supreme Court and accused Evers of racially gerrymandering the maps.

The U.S. Supreme Court said that the state court failed to consider whether an alternative map may exist that would keep the number of majority-Black districts at six without infringing on the "equal political opportunity" of the Black voters who would have made up the new seventh district.

Evers' office has indicated that although its analysis showed the maps would lead to some gains for state Democrats, Republicans would still likely maintain their majority in the state Assembly and Senate, where they currently hold majorities of 61-38 and 21-12, respectively, according to the AP.

Republicans hold five of the eight seats Wisconsin has in Congress, and the new map likely would have made at least one currently held by a Republican more competitive.

Update 3/23/22, 3:45 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.

Supreme Court Wisconsin Maps
In a new ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out state legislative district maps chosen by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers. Above, the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., is seen April 19, 2018. Robert Alexander/Getty Images