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Wisconsin Legislature to appeal redistricting decision to U.S. Supreme Court

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Wisconsin Supreme Court

The entrance to the Wisconsin Supreme Court chambers in the state Capitol.

A day after the Wisconsin Supreme Court adopted Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal for the state’s 10-year congressional and legislative district maps, the Wisconsin Legislature filed a motion with the court for a stay on the ruling pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Legislature intends to request an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, the motion states, after it maintained Friday that Evers’ maps violate federal law by moving too many people around to create majority-minority Assembly districts. If the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t take the case, the state’s ruling will remain in place.

A small percentage of voters and witnesses made mistakes on their absentee ballot certificates in 2020. Here are some examples of the kinds of errors that were either allowed or corrected by the clerk in order to permit the ballot to be counted.

The Legislature in its motion focuses on Evers’ decision to include seven majority-Black Assembly districts in Milwaukee, all of which include about 50% Black populations. The state’s high court, the Legislature argues, never decided whether those districts were required by the Voting Rights Act, referencing the majority opinion Thursday that the justices had “good reasons” to believe they were required.

“There can be no ‘good reasons’ for maximizing the number of majority-minority districts by dialing down the existing Black population in the existing majority-Black districts to a 50-percent, as the ordered plans indisputably do,” attorney Kevin St. John states in the 18-page motion.

The Legislature called for the stay Friday arguing that its appeal, built upon the allegation that Evers’ districts “cannot be justified by any reasonable interpretation of the Voting Rights Act,” would likely be held up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Asked for comment, Evers’ spokesperson Britt Cudaback referred to the governor’s statement from Thursday, which said “the maps I submitted to the Court that were selected today are a vast improvement from the gerrymandered maps Wisconsin has had for the last decade and the even more gerrymandered Republican maps that I vetoed last year.”

The Legislature in the motion states that moving forward with “racially gerrymandered” maps would create irreparable harm, while the state Supreme Court issuing a stay would not.

Part of the harm, St. John writes in the motion, would be the money and time state officials put into implementing and enforcing Evers’ plan that the U.S. Supreme Court is “likely to reverse.” The federal high court would probably alert the state Legislature within three weeks of its emergency relief request filing on whether it would accept the appeal, St. John said.

The Republican Legislature filed the motion one day after the court issued a 4-3 split decision adopting Evers’ boundaries that would maintain Republican majorities in the Legislature but likely prevent them from claiming a veto-proof supermajority.

Conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn, a regular swing vote on the court, sided with liberal justices Rebecca Dallet, Ann Walsh Bradley and Jill Karofsky in the ruling.

The ruling Thursday came months after Hagedorn and the court’s conservatives ruled 4-3 that they would follow a “least change” approach from the current maps, which are considered some of the most gerrymandered in the nation.

The Legislature in the motion Friday states it had repeatedly argued that Evers’ maps were unconstitutional despite Hagedorn writing in Thursday’s majority opinion that nobody suggested the maps violated the Voting Rights Act or Equal Protection Clause.

The Republican Legislature added that seven is the maximum number of majority-Black Assembly districts possible in Milwaukee.

“A redistricting plan cannot survive strict scrutiny based on a party’s mere assertion that an additional district is possible,” the motion states.

Evers set up the court battle over the state’s next decennial maps when he vetoed GOP-drawn boundaries in mid-November. The governor had championed boundaries drawn by the People’s Maps Commission, but those maps failed to get universal support among legislative Democrats, with some criticizing the boundaries for potentially diminishing Black and Hispanic representation in the Legislature.

After the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of a “least change” approach, Evers submitted new maps that made fewer changes than the Republican proposal, while also slightly reducing the projected Republican advantage in the Legislature.

The 2020 election is over. Here’s what happened (and what didn’t)

The 2020 election was “the most secure in American history,” according to the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which coordinates the nation’s election infrastructure.

While a handful of voters risked going to prison by attempting to vote twice or in the name of a dead relative, as happens in any election, no evidence of widespread fraud has ever been produced in Wisconsin or elsewhere.

Yet, many continue to question some of the practices clerks relied on to encourage eligible voters to cast ballots and make sure their votes were counted amid the first election in more than 100 years held during a pandemic.

The Wisconsin State Journal has covered every twist and turn of this debate in scores of stories. But here are a few that offered some broader context about what happened, and didn't happen, in the election of 2020.

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The state has multiple, overlapping safeguards aimed at preventing ineligible voters from casting ballots, tampering with the ballots or altering vote totals.

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Nothing in the emails suggests there were problems with the election that contributed in any meaningful way to Trump's 20,682-vote loss to Joe Biden.

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"Despite concerns with statewide elections procedures, this audit showed us that the election was largely safe and secure," Sen. Rob Cowles said Friday.

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The grants were provided to every Wisconsin municipality that asked for them, and in the amounts they asked for. 

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"Application of the U.S. Department of Justice guidance among the clerks in Wisconsin is not uniform," the memo says.

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YORKVILLE — The Racine County Sheriff’s Office announced in a Thursday morning news conference that it has identified eight cases of what it believes to be election fraud at a Mount Pleasant nursing home.

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The memo states that state law gives the Audit Bureau complete access to all records during an audit investigation and federal law and guidance does not prohibit an election official from handing over election records.

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Drop boxes were used throughout Wisconsin, including in areas where Trump won the vast majority of counties.

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"I don't think that you instill confidence in a process by kind of blindly assuming there's nothing to see here," WILL president and general counsel Rick Esenberg said.

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The report is the latest to show that there was not widespread fraud in Wisconsin.

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The clear insinuation was that someone not qualified to conduct an election improperly influenced these vulnerable voters. But the Wisconsin State Journal could not confirm the data. 

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The turnout at nursing homes in Brown, Kenosha, Milwaukee and Racine counties in 2020 was not much different from the turnout in 2016.

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