When the Wisconsin Supreme Court handed down its momentous decision requiring new state legislative maps last week, there were a lot of statements from Republicans along the lines of “you haven’t heard the last of us!”
On Tuesday, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) previewed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel what he has in mind.
“We will pursue all federal issues arising out of the redistricting litigation at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Vos said.
It’s a vague statement, and it’s very unclear on what grounds he would seek Supreme Court intervention.
But the High Court has delivered for Vos before, ruling in 2022 that the state Supreme Court had made a mistake when it endorsed maps proposed by Democratic Governor Tony Evers. The U.S. Supreme Court sent the issue back to the state Supreme Court, which then picked maps drawn by state legislative Republicans.
This month’s decision by Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ordering the maps to be redrawn came after a shift in the makeup of the state court, which, as of last spring, has a liberal majority.
In the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court opinion, the justices found that the Evers-proposed map went too far in creating Black-majority districts. Evers’ team’s map added a seventh majority-Black district, which it said would bring the state’s maps into compliance with the VRA. The state Supreme Court, in its decision picking Evers’ maps over other maps proposed by the legislature, wrote, “[W]e cannot say for certain on this record that seven majority-Black assembly districts are required by the VRA,” but concluded that there were “good reasons” to think that they were.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s majority didn’t like that at all.
The state Supreme Court, the justices said, “improperly relied on generalizations” and failed to consider whether a “race-neutral alternative” that didn’t add a seventh majority-Black district would have also been permitted under the VRA. The decision was unsigned, but included a fiery dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was joined by Elena Kagan.
Vos suggested to the Journal Sentinel on Tuesday that Republicans would seek to make similar arguments were they to return to the U.S. Supreme Court — though in order to game it out, he had to run through a series of hypotheticals. “Last time around, the Democrats’ maps racially gerrymandered voters to obtain a political goal. I expect they’ll do so again,” he said. “The Supreme Court wasn’t fooled by the overt racial gerrymandering before, and it’s my hope that the Court will refuse to allow that or any other violation of federal law this time around, too.”
The Wisconsin Election Commission is asking for new maps to be in place by March 15, so whatever happens will have to play out in a relatively short time frame — unless SCOTUS is open to a dramatic, last-minute intervention.