Wisconsin Voters Should Choose Their Leaders, Not the Other Way Around

Looking over the shoulder of a woman sitting at a table who is looking at a map which says "Assembly District 22"
Helen Harris, a resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, examines a map of her district. She feels that gerrymandering in her state separated her from her community and put her in a district with legislators that didn’t care about her interests. Photo by Patrick Haley

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.  

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 several Wisconsin voters from across the state who have had their voices silenced by the map. 

After the 2020 census, partisan politicians crafted a map that continues to silence the voices of voters. Elections should be determined by voters, not politicians who manipulate voting maps to benefit themselves. 

The Wisconsin state legislative maps drawn in 2011 were among the most gerrymandered in the country. In response to this, CLC in 2016 challenged the maps on the grounds that they were an extreme partisan gerrymandering—bringing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court left it up to state courts to resolve these cases. 

At issue in this case are serious constitutional flaws with Wisconsin's maps.  

The Wisconsin constitution requires that districts be contiguous—a redistricting law that requires all parts of a district be physically adjacent to each other—yet over two-thirds of Wisconsinites are living in noncontiguous districts. Some live on “islands” miles away from the rest of their district. 

“This shocks people across the country who look at this map,” Mark Gaber, CLC's senior director of redistricting, said during oral argument. “Wisconsin is the only state that has anything that looks anything like this.”

The failure of the Legislature to even draw contiguous districts illustrates its singular focus on choosing voters rather than the voters choosing their representatives. The map severely undermines the freedom to vote and our democracy. 

Furthermore, the Legislature disregarded the separation of powers when it enacted this unfair map, as they implemented a map that Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers had vetoed without going through the official veto override process.

picture of gerrymandered, noncontiguous districts in Wisconsin

Ultimately, the Wisconsin Supreme Court should ensure that further use of the state’s unfair state legislative map is blocked in order to deliver fair maps, protect the freedom to vote, and work to achieve an inclusive, accountable democracy. 

Emma Krug is a Communications Assistant at CLC.