Wisconsin Supreme Court Locks in 6–2 GOP Redistricting Advantage

  • Retiring Rep. Kind’s district could change hands in November
  • Congressional map changes proposed by Democratic governor

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Republicans will have a clear path to a lopsided 6–2 edge in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation under a redistricting plan the State Supreme Court approved Thursday.

The court, in a 4–3 decision, opted for a configuration offered by Gov. Tony Evers (D), who had rejected the version drafted by the Republican-controlled legislature.

“Hell yes,” Evers said in a news release. “The maps I submitted to the Court that were selected today are a vast improvement from the gerrymandered maps Wisconsin has had for the last decade and the even more gerrymandered Republican maps that I vetoed last year.”

Though Wisconsin is a politically competitive state that Joe Biden carried in the 2020 presidential election, the court-approved map is likely to cement the GOP’s hold on the delegation for the next decade, and help that party’s effort to take control of the U.S. House by flipping five seats nationwide.

(Subscribe to Ballots & Boundaries to follow how states revise political districts.)

The action also demonstrates the importance of state courts in decennial redistricting following a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that concluded federal courts have no constitutional authority to adjudicate claims of political gerrymandering.

The Wisconsin court had said it wanted as little changed as possible from the current map, and Evers’ submission accomplished that, according to the decision.

“We determine that the best approach is to choose the maps that best conform with our directives, imperfect though they may be,” Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote for the court. “Governor Evers’ submission complies with the federal Constitution and all other applicable laws. We therefore adopt Governor Evers’ proposed congressional map.”

Photographer: Dylan Buell/Getty Images for VIBE
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) speaks during a Juneteenth Day festival on June 19, 2019, in Milwaukee.

The 3rd District of retiring Rep. Ron Kind (D) remains almost exactly the same, offering the opposition party a prime takeover opportunity. Republican Derrick Van Orden, who almost unseated Kind in 2020, is the front-running candidate in this year’s election.

A challenge for Democrats in redistricting has been that their voters are clustered in Madison and Milwaukee.

In the southeastern part of the state, a Republican-held seat was drawn to become more competitive.

The 1st District currently held by Republican Rep. Bryan Steil (and formerly held by Paul Ryan) would have gone for Trump 50%–48%, compared with 54%–45% under current lines.

Steil was re-elected 59%–41% in 2020. Generally, the president’s party suffers losses in midterm elections, and Steil should be considered a favorite.

Previously: Democrats Blast Wisconsin Supreme Court Redistricting Decision

With assistance from Stephen Joyce

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com

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