Wisconsin Democrats thought they had won the redistricting war. They took over the governor’s office, competed in and won state judicial races and filed lawsuits as early as they could, determined to prevent another cycle of Republican-leaning maps. After a battle between Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican legislators, a conservative judge sided with Evers, rejecting a Republican-drawn legislative map in favor of one that was better for Democrats.
But Republicans took their case to theU.S. Supreme Court — and won.
“It was a Hail Mary’s Hail Mary, not something we were very focused on,” said Ben Wikler, the chair of Wisconsin’s Democratic Party. “But here we are.”
After a redistricting cycle that initially went better than expected for Democrats,the conservative Supreme Court has bolstered Republican efforts to reverse that trend, with more cases in the wings from GOP attorneys and legislators from multiple states.
AlabamaRepublicans persuaded the Supreme Court to override a lower court’s ruling that would have forced the state to draw two congressional districts with large Black voting blocs. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has laid the groundwork for a legal battle over his desire to eliminate a district with a plurality of Black voters. Ohio Republicans, who have repeatedly lost in the state Supreme Court over gerrymandered maps, is waging a parallel legal fight in a more favorable federal court.
What worries Democrats and voting rights advocates most is the potential that the Supreme Court will validate alegal theory that state legislatures alone must draw political maps — a judgment that would give lawmakers final say over redistricting, stripping out the role that governors, judges and even independent commissions set up by voters have in the process. North Carolina Republicans have asked the court to weigh in; Republicans in other states, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, have endorsed the idea, known colloquially as the “independent state legislature theory.”
One group pushing for power to rest with state legislatures is the Article III Project, which advocates for conservative judges. Mike Davis, the head of that group, called it “a very powerful legal argument” that gives the U.S. Supreme Courtsolid reasons to “finally end the Democrats’ unconstitutional redistricting game of having their partisan, Democrat state Supreme Court judges and commissions” draw maps.”
“My prediction is that the Supreme Court will rule 6-3 in favor of (North Carolina Republicans) — and finally end redistricting by partisan Democrat courts and commissions,” Davis said.
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