Policy Watch

Democracy Advocates Achieve Fair Maps Victory in Wisconsin



Wisconsin achieved a huge victory this week with the enactment of fair legislative maps that end more than a decade of extreme gerrymandered maps. This victory for Wisconsin voters is the result of many years of advocacy and litigation by nonpartisan watchdog groups that took the fight for fair maps all the way to the United States Supreme Court, before finally winning relief in a case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court that led to passage of new maps by the state legislature and governor.

The legal fight goes all the way back to 2011 when Wisconsin adopted one of the most gerrymandered maps in the country. A group of Wisconsin voters filed a federal lawsuit, Gill v. Whitford, and the federal court struck down the maps as violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the state’s request to overturn the lower court’s ruling and remanded it for further proceedings. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled in a separate case, Rucho v. Common Cause, that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of federal courts, which sent the problem back to the states and voided the win in Whitford.

Fast forward to 2023 when Wisconsin advocates, still determined to fight for fair maps, filed a lawsuit asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to invalidate the new district maps adopted in 2022. In December, the state high court overturned those maps as violating the state constitution and ordered new districts to be drawn for the 2024 elections. The court established an aggressive timeline for the state legislature to pass and the governor to sign legislation establishing new district maps, and if they did not the Court would draw new maps.

Last week the legislature passed Senate Bill 488, which was signed by the governor this week. It creates new legislative maps that do not favor one political party over another, allowing for fairer and more inclusive representation for Wisconsin voters. The new maps will be in effect for Wisconsin’s August primary and November general election.

Congratulations to Joyce Democracy Program grantee partners, including Law Forward, Common Cause Wisconsin, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, and members of Fair Maps Coalition, among others, whose steadfast communication, organizing and strategic advocacy led to Wisconsin voters finally being able to vote in fairly-drawn districts this year.

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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