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Election Law-Redistricting


Election Law-Redistricting


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WI Court of Supreme Court

Case Name: Rebecca Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission

Case No.: 2023AP001399-OA


Focus: Election Law-Redistricting

In Wisconsin the number of state legislative districts containing territory completely disconnected from the rest of the district is striking. At least 50 of 99 assembly districts and at least 20 of 33 senate districts include separate, detached territory. A particularly stark example is the Madison-area 47th Assembly District. This district contains more than a dozen separate, detached parts that are home to thousands of people who must cross one or more other districts before reaching another part of the 47th.

Here the appeals court is asked to determine whether these districts violate Article IV, Sections 4 and 5 of the Wisconsin Constitution, which provide that state legislative districts must consist of “contiguous territory.” Wis. Const. art. IV, §§ 4-5. Two groups of Wisconsin voters (the Clarke Petitioners and Wright Petitioners), the Governor, and a group of state senators (collectively, Petitioners), argue that the current districts are non-contiguous, and therefore violate the Wisconsin Constitution. Petitioners ask the court to enjoin their use in future elections and to order the adoption of remedial maps. Additionally, they ask the court to issue a writ quo warranto declaring the November 2022 state senate elections unlawful, and to order special elections for these offices that would otherwise not be on the ballot until November 2026. The Legislature, several senators elected in 2022, and a group of Wisconsin voters (collectively, Respondents) argue that the current state legislative districts comply with the Wisconsin Constitution’s contiguity requirements. Respondents also contend that Petitioners’ claims are barred by various defenses, and that the relief the Petitioners seek is otherwise unavailable.

The supreme court holds that the contiguity requirements in Article IV, Sections 4 and 5 mean what they say: Wisconsin’s state legislative districts must be composed of physically adjoining territory. The constitutional text and precedent support this common-sense interpretation of contiguity. Because the current state legislative districts contain separate, detached territory and therefore violate the constitution’s contiguity requirements, the supreme court enjoins the Wisconsin Elections Commission from using the current legislative maps in future elections. The court also rejects each of Respondents’ defenses. The court  declines, however, to issue a writ quo warranto invalidating the results of the 2022 state senate elections. Because the court enjoins the current state legislative district maps from future use, remedial maps must be drawn prior to the 2024 elections.

Decided 12/22/23

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