A panel of federal judges has ruled at least a portion of Wisconsin’s new legislative district maps will need to be changed. Although, the panel says the majority of the redistricting plan approved last summer does not violate the Constitution and will remain in place for the next decade.
The decision centers largely on the 8th and 9th Assembly Districts in South Milwaukee. Opponents of the maps claimed the new district lines violate the Voting Rights Act by unfairly dividing up the Latino population. The judges agreed, ruling the maps could make it harder for Latinos to elect their own candidate in either district. The ruling blocks the full legislative maps for the state from taking effect until those districts are redrawn.
Judges were careful to note though that “to avoid disrupting other lines, the court emphasizes that the re-drawing of the lines for Districts 8 and 9 must occur within the combined outer boundaries of those two districts.”
The maps were approved last summer by the Republican-controlled Legislature, a process the state is required to undertake every ten years after the U.S. Census is complete. Opponents filed a number of challenges in federal court, including arguments that maps could disenfranchise over 300,000 voters by making them wait an extra ten years to pick a state senator and that they divided up communities of interest. Judges denied all of those claims, except for the issues regarding the Milwaukee Latino districts.
In the ruling issued Thursday morning, the panel of three federal judges noted that Republicans undertook a secretive process to draw the maps and needlessly moved over a million Wisconsinites into new districts. However, the decision says “the resulting population deviations are not large enough to permit judicial intervention under the Supreme Court’s precedents.”
The ruling is likely to stand, unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case.