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Redistricting duel

LAW | Wisconsin Supreme Court weighs electoral maps

Janet Protasiewicz Sara Stathas/Washington Post/Getty Images

Redistricting duel
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In late November, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard arguments in a gerrymandering case that could upend the state’s electoral map. In the lawsuit, voters represented by a left-leaning law firm are challenging the constitutionality of a voter map that the formerly conservative high court approved in 2022.

Voters represented by Law Forward asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on the case in August, one day after Justice Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in after a hotly contested race. Her election swung the court to a 4-3 liberal majority. The challengers contend the 2022 map violates a state constitutional provision that requires electoral districts be “contiguous.”

In the Nov. 21 hearing, attorneys for the voters argued that 75 districts on the 2022 map included isolated “islands” that, while lawfully annexed by municipalities in the district, do not connect with the remainder of the district.

Luke Berg, deputy counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which intervened in the appeal, called the lawsuit a “transparent attempt to use the new Wisconsin Supreme Court majority to reshape Wisconsin’s political landscape.” Stakes are high, as a redrawn map would likely give Democrats an opportunity to retake power in the Legislature.

Periodic redistricting—­necessary because of population changes—is a politically infused process, since most states give elected legislators the power to draw the often oddly shaped districts. Charges of partisan gerrymandering (drawing voter maps to favor a political party) are common: Lawsuits are also ongoing in North Carolina and Maryland.

Paul Woolverton/The Fayetteville Observer/AP

Diluting North Carolina’s black votes?

Days before Thanksgiving, two black voters in North Carolina challenged electoral maps for the state Senate adopted by the GOP-controlled Legislature. They say an October redistricting violates federal law by diluting black votes.

The voters claim the General Assembly’s redistricting plan breaks up multiple majority-­black districts in a so-called “black belt” in the state’s northeast, diluting their ability to elect a black candidate. Unlike political gerrymandering, racial gerrymandering is prohibited by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which bars voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race.

The lawsuit asks a federal court to draw new lines—including a “minority opportunity district” in the state’s majority-­black counties.

In early December, black and Latino voters filed a similar lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s federal congressional districts. —S.W.

Steve West

Steve is a reporter for WORLD. A graduate of World Journalism Institute, he worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor in Raleigh, N.C., where he resides with his wife.



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