Fighting Partisan Gerrymandering in Wisconsin (Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission)

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Campaign Legal Center (CLC) partnered with Law Forward, the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, and Arnold & Porter to file a lawsuit on behalf of 19 Wisconsin voters challenging the extreme partisan gerrymandering of the state legislative map.

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When the people in charge of drawing voting maps are the same people who stand to benefit from influencing those maps, voters lose. Wisconsinites deserve fair maps that give them an equal chance to make their voices heard and elect leaders who will best serve their community.  

Thirteen years ago, Wisconsin politicians drew new district lines...

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About this Case

In 2010, Wisconsin politicians drew new district lines behind closed doors and, in defiance of the state constitution, crafted maps that essentially guaranteed one-party control of the legislature.   

This was borne out in 2018 when, despite winning 53% of state Assembly votes cast statewide, Democrats only ended up with 36% of the seats. After the 2020 census, partisan politicians in the Legislature—whose seats were virtually guaranteed by the gerrymandered voting maps from a decade earlier—crafted a similarly extreme gerrymander to further entrench themselves in power. That legislative map was vetoed by the Governor but was then imposed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and continues to silence the voices of voters.   

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) partnered with Law Forward, the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, Stafford Rosenbaum LLP, and Arnold & Porter to file a lawsuit on behalf of 19 Wisconsin voters from across the state challenging the constitutionality of the current illegally gerrymandered map. The suit names as respondents the Wisconsin Election Commission, members and staff of the Commission, and state senators from districts where special elections must be called to remedy the unconstitutional maps.   

The lawsuit argues that the current legislative map in Wisconsin constitutes an extreme partisan gerrymander that violates the Wisconsin constitution by denying voters their equal protection and free association rights, retaliating against voters based upon their expression of political beliefs, and failing to adhere to Wisconsin’s constitutional requirements of “justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue.”  

The existing legislative districts also violate the basic provision of the Wisconsin Constitution that legislative districts consist of “contiguous territory” because 55 of the existing assembly districts, and 21 of the current senate districts, are noncontiguous and include scattered fragments of detached territory. The suit also argues that the existing legislative districts violate the Wisconsin Constitution’s separation of powers principles because maps proposed by the Legislature and vetoed by the Governor were nevertheless imposed by the Court.  

The petitioners ask the court to order the creation of new maps before the 2024 elections for State Assembly and State Senate, and that these new maps be constitutional and free from partisan gerrymandering. The petitioners seek to ensure that no further Wisconsin elections will take place under illegal and unfairly drawn maps that silence the voices of Wisconsin voters. 

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