The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments this morning in a case challenging Wisconsin’s 2011 legislative redistricting.
Justices are being asked to uphold lower court rulings, which found the maps drawn by Republicans are unconstitutional because they amount to a political gerrymander. The maps were drawn in 2011, when Republicans had full control of the Legislature and governor’s office, and have resulted in GOP lawmakers continuing to increase their majorities in both chambers.
Republicans returned to the Capitol last January with a 64-35 seat majority in the state Assembly and a 20-13 advantage in the Senate.
Annabelle Harless is an attorney for plaintiffs in the case, who argue the maps gave the GOP an unfair advantage by drawing district lines that waste Democratic votes. “In 2012 Republicans statewide got about 48.6 percent of the vote, but over 60 percent of the seats,” she says. “So, even with less than a majority of the vote, they retained control the Legislature, and they continued to do so in 2014 and 2016.”
Republicans have argued in court that the maps were legally drawn, while Governor Scott Walker has chalked up growing GOP majorities in the Legislature to a sign that voters support the work they are doing in the state. “The reason they’ve won and added seats in the legislature is because common-sense, conservative reforms work,” the governor said in June of this year.
A three judge panel struck down the maps last year and ordered lawmakers to draw new district lines in time for the 2018 elections, although that order has been put on hold while the Supreme Court reviews the case. If the Supreme Court rules against the state, Wisconsin could have to re-draw its district boundaries ahead of the 2018 elections.