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Supreme Court rejects GOP effort to overturn Wisconsin congressional map

In separate case, court orders a new legislative map

The U.S. Supreme Court, in January.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an effort by Wisconsin Republicans to overturn a court-chosen congressional map in the state.

The case sprang from the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s selection of a map put forward by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. With Republicans in control of the state legislature and a Democrat as governor, the two sides were not able to compromise on a map before the court stepped in.

The state Supreme Court approved a map that largely followed old district lines for Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts. The seat for retiring Democratic Rep. Ron Kind is the most likely to change hands this fall in the state’s delegation, where Republicans currently control five seats.

In a separate case, the U.S. Supreme court ordered the Wisconsin Supreme Court to draw new state legislative maps. There, in an unsigned opinion, the justices reversed the state court’s decision allowing an additional district where Black voters make up the majority.

The justices wrote that the state Supreme Court “committed legal error in its application of decisions of this Court regarding the relationship between the constitutional guarantee of equal protection” and the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting power.

The decision found the Wisconsin Supreme Court stepped beyond its bounds by drawing a seventh Black majority legislative district in the state. The justices sent the case back to the state court to resolve, again. Wisconsin has its primary on Aug. 9.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, with Sotomayor calling the decision “not only extraordinary but also unnecessary” because the case could still be litigated.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., brought up the case Wednesday during Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing to the Supreme Court. A day earlier, Klobuchar had referred to the Supreme Court using its so-called shadow docket, which usually refers to cases decided without oral arguments.

On Wednesday, she brought up the Wisconsin decision, saying she didn’t expect Jackson to be familiar with the case. But she said the ruling underscored a point she had made about the Supreme Court’s increasing practice to use that docket “to decide cases that have grave consequences for our democracy, including the right to vote that you and many other nominees have said is fundamental, is incredibly troubling.”

Last month, the Supreme Court allowed an allegedly racially discriminatory map in Alabama to move forward for this fall’s elections. There, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh argued the state’s May primary was too close to fully hear the dispute over the map.

That decision was a departure from the court’s prior practice. In 2012, the court allowed for Texas’ primary to be delayed while a Voting Rights Act challenge to its congressional map played out.

All of these cases have so far been decided without oral argument or full briefing.

Todd Ruger contributed to this report.

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