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WI Gov Calls On State Supreme Court to Order Changes to Congressional Districts

Following a lengthy legal battle, Evers signed into law changes to state legislative districts earlier this week.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers delivers remarks during a canvassing launch event with volunteers and supporters on November 6, 2022, in Madison, Wisconsin.

Fresh off a victory in getting state legislative maps changed to better reflect voters’ political preferences, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is now requesting that the state Supreme Court examine federal congressional lines in the state as well.

On Monday, Evers signed into law maps he had drawn for the state Assembly and Senate district lines, following a lengthy legal battle that culminated in the state’s highest court overturning the previously Republican-crafted maps that had cemented huge majorities for the party in both chambers since 2011. Republicans ended up agreeing to pass Evers’s maps earlier this month, fearing that the state Supreme Court could implement other options that would diminish their nearly two-thirds majority in both houses of the state legislative branch of government.

The new maps authored by Evers, which he describes as being fairer than the previous ones, still give Republicans a better shot at retaining control of the legislature. However, Democrats have a minute possibility of winning the legislature, where such a chance hadn’t existed before, according to analyses of the various options that were available.

With the new maps, it’s likely that the two legislative chambers will be closer split, reflective of the electorate’s preferences in general when it comes to statewide races, which typically fall very close to 50-50 splits. The legislation that Evers signed into law on Monday, however, didn’t affect federal congressional districts, which still heavily favor Republicans.

From 2011 through 2022, Republicans held five of the eight House seats that are within the state, with Democrats winning the other three that were available. In 2022, after the congressional districts were barely altered in any way, Republicans were able to win one of the Democratic-held seats, which is the most competitive in the state, increasing their congressional delegation advantage to 6-2.

Evers, in a post on X on Tuesday, celebrated the change in state legislative maps but said he would ask the state Supreme Court to go beyond them.

“MONDAY: I signed fair maps for Wisconsin’s Legislature. NEXT UP: fair maps for our congressional districts,” he wrote.

“We want to end gerrymandering in Wisconsin at every level,” Evers added, “so I’m asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review our congressional maps to make sure those are fair, too.”

The congressional districts that exist right now were technically drawn by Evers, after a separate legal battle between him and legislative Republicans made it impossible for a compromise set of maps to be made. The state Supreme Court, in trying to resolve the dispute, tasked both sides with drawing new maps through a questionable “least change” standard that had never been employed before, requiring proposals to the court to make as few changes as possible to the maps Republicans had drawn in 2011, which were widely regarded as partisan gerrymanders.

The “least change” standard was created under a conservative-led state Supreme Court. It was overturned by the now liberal-controlled court during the legal battle regarding the state legislative maps.

A legal challenge from the Democratic-aligned Elias Law Group to the congressional maps was filed last month. In a letter earlier this week, the state attorney general’s office explained Evers’s views on that challenge, urging the court to take it up and expedite a process to create new federal district lines as soon as possible, because the old standard was seen as improperly arrived at.

“Given that the maps the Governor submitted [that are in place now] were grounded in that ‘least change’ approach, the Governor urges the Court to review its decision and stands ready to participate in any future proceedings the Court may order,” a letter to the court from Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Anthony D. Russomanno said.

Because the next round of congressional races is less than seven months away, it’s highly unlikely that the state Supreme Court, which has yet to decide if it’s even taking up the challenge, will order new congressional maps to be drawn for this year’s races. It’s possible, however, that the court could take up the case and hear arguments about the congressional map’s legality, potentially making a decision that would allow for a change to the maps in the 2026 election cycle.

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