Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission
On Wednesday, August 2nd, 2023 Law Forward – along with co-counsels Stafford Rosenbaum, Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, Campaign Legal Center, and Arnold & Porter – filed a Petition to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin to take jurisdiction of an original action to challenge the gerrymandered state legislative maps.
As Jeff Mandell noted, “In the past 12 years, one political party captured the Legislature and has insulated itself from being answerable to the voters. Despite the fact that our legislative branch is meant to be the most directly representative of the people, the gerrymandered maps have divided our communities, preventing fair representation. This has eroded confidence in our political system, suppressed competitive elections, skewed policy outcomes, and undermined democratic representation. We have endured 12 years of rule by right-wing interests, and the voters of Wisconsin deserve fair representation.”
The existing legislative maps are an extreme partisan gerrymander that violates various parts of the Wisconsin Constitution.
The Petitioners are voters – citizens of this state who seek to exercise their rights to speak freely, band together to advocate political beliefs, and obtain equal representation through the ballots they cast in lawfully drawn districts. This case is about ending the systematic silencing of voters across the state as punishment for daring to think, believe, and vote differently from a group of politicians who won a single election thirteen years ago and then set out to entrench themselves into power permanently, the state’s Constitution– and the rights of its residents– be damned.
Since 2012, even when Democrats have won as much as 53% of the statewide vote, they have held no more than 39 of the 99 Assembly seats. In the same period, even when Republicans have won as little as 44.8% of the statewide vote, they have held no fewer than 60 of the 99 Assembly seats. As intended by the 2011 partisan gerrymander, voting for state legislative districts has no effect on political party control of the state legislature and, therefore, constrains the ability of the people of the State of Wisconsin to effect legislative outcomes by electing representatives of their choice who reflect their preferred policies.
As a result of the legislature’s effort to punish certain voters for their political expression and favor others, in the November 2022 election, Republicans won 64 of 99 Assembly seats and saw victories that yielded them 22 of 33 senate seats– a supermajority in the Senate and close to one in the Assembly. At the same time, Democratic candidates won three of five statewide elections.
By every metric, Wisconsin’s legislative plans score among the most – if not the most– skewed in the nation.
On October 16, 2023, we filed a brief in response to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to take jurisdiction of the original action and issued a press release outlining the challenges to the current legislative maps under Wisconsin’s constitution.
On Dec. 22, 2023, the Supreme Court ordered new maps ahead of the 2024 election. Dan Lenz said “Today’s decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court is a victory for a representative democracy in the state of Wisconsin. For too long, rightwing interests have rigged the rules without any consequences. Gerrymandered maps have distorted the political landscape, stifling the voice of the voters. It challenges the very essence of fair representation and erodes confidence in our political system. Our team will be working to draw constitutional, fair, representative maps and will provide more information in the coming weeks.”
Redistricting & Fair Maps
Supreme Court of Wisconsin
August 2, 2023
August 30, 2023
We filed a response to the respondent’s request that Justice Protasiewicz recuse herself from the Clarke vs. WEC case regarding gerrymandering in Wisconsin.
In the past 12 years, right-wing interests have operated in Wisconsin with no accountability to the voters. Despite the fact that our assembly and senate are meant to be the most direct representatives of the people, the gerrymandered maps have divided our communities preventing fair representation. This has eroded confidence in our electoral systems, suppressed competitive elections, skewed policy outcomes, and undermined democratic representation.
September 18, 2023
We filed a supplemental brief at the request of Justice Protasiewicz clearly showing Wisconsin law does not require recusal. It would be a violation of her oath of office and would render meaningless Wisconsin voters’ constitutional right to elect the justice of their choice.
One party should not be able to silence certain voices for their own political gain. Wisconsinites deserve a timely resolution to this matter and fair representation.
October 10, 2023
Late Friday, October 6th, 2023, the Wisconsin Supreme Court took jurisdiction of this. Initial briefs in response to questions posed by the Court are due Monday, October 16th at noon, response briefs are due October 30th at noon, and oral arguments are scheduled for November 21 at 9:45 AM. Dan Lenz, Staff Counsel at Law Forward issued the following statement:
“Friday’s order represents a win for all of our communities whose voices have been silenced for the last 12 years, for our state, country, and for the future of Wisconsin. For democracy to work for us all it must include us all, and we are very proud to be a part of this important effort to ensure our elected representatives represent us instead of trying to rule over us. We are only here because of the hard work of so many Wisconsinites including our plaintiffs, co-counsel, and team here at Law Forward. What has happened here in Wisconsin is anti-democratic and against our values of fair representation in our government. We look forward to presenting our incredibly strong case in court. We must never be ruled over by the few who aren’t accountable to the people of Wisconsin.”
October 16, 2023
With our co-counsels, we filed a brief with the Wisconsin Supreme Court to continue efforts to obtain fair state legislative maps in Wisconsin. The brief includes criteria for how the court should draw new fair maps and lays out a fair process to draw nonpartisan legislative maps.
October 30, 2023
With our co-counsels, we filed a response brief with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin to continue efforts to obtain fair legislative maps in Wisconsin. This is a response to briefs filed on October 16 and after the Wisconsin Supreme Court took jurisdiction of this original action on Friday, October 6th. The arguments in this brief specifically address respondents’ meritless claims and give the Court a legal roadmap showing why they must address the Petitioners’ claims to remedy this constitutional wrong.
November 21, 2023
The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments in this landmark case challenging the extreme partisan gerrymandering of state legislative maps.
We argued that Wisconsin’s maps are clearly unconstitutional because they are non-contiguous and violate the Separation of Powers Principle. The court needs to do its job and throw these maps out without delay.
December 22, 2023
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered new maps ahead of the 2024 election. Dan Lenz, Staff Counsel, provided this statement: “Today’s decision from the Wisconsin Supreme Court is a victory for a representative democracy in the state of Wisconsin. For too long, rightwing interests have rigged the rules without any consequences. Gerrymandered maps have distorted the political landscape, stifling the voice of the voters. It challenges the very essence of fair representation and erodes confidence in our political system. Our team will be working to draw constitutional, fair, representative maps and will provide more information in the coming weeks.”
January 4, 2024
We filed a brief in response to the respondents request for reconsideration.
The former legislative maps are unconstitutional and none of the arguments put forth by the respondents demonstrate otherwise. This is just a feeble attempt to delay this litigation. Wisconsinites deserve to have fair maps and representation and we look forward to presenting our constitutional maps to the court on January 12.
January 12, 2024
On behalf of the Rebecca Clarke plaintiffs, Law Forward, Stafford Rosenbaum, the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, Campaign Legal Center, and Arnold & Porter filed proposed constitutional legislative maps, a brief, and two expert reports with the Wisconsin Supreme Court after the Court sided with the Wisconsin voters in its December 22 ruling which held the former legislative maps unconstitutional. This is the next step forward toward achieving fair maps and representative democracy in Wisconsin.
January 22, 2024
On behalf of the Rebecca Clarke petitioners, Law Forward and co-counsels filed a response brief and appendix to 6 proposed maps. The Clarke maps stand in stark contrast to the legislature and Johnson maps and are politically neutral.
February 1, 2024
The two consultants the Wisconsin Supreme Court appointed to review the maps in this case, Prof. Jonathan Cervas and Prof. Bernard Grofman, released their report. Our team will be further analyzing the report and will weigh in thoroughly on Feb. 8. Dan Lenz, Staff Counsel said:
February 8, 2024
We filed the Petitioners’ response to the independent, nonpartisan consultant’s report in the fair maps litigation Clarke v. WEC. This is the next step forward toward achieving fair maps and representative democracy in Wisconsin. The maps submitted on behalf of our clients- the Clarke maps- outperform the others on the majority of the constitutionally mandated criteria.
As noted in our press release, in choosing among four good maps that are similar on other criteria, the best course of action for this Court is to select those maps that achieve the best performance overall on the constitutionally mandated criteria and split the fewest municipalities—the Clarke maps. The Clarke maps outperform nearly every court ordered or legislatively drawn map in Wisconsin from the past 30 years on these neutral metrics. And the political neutrality of the Clarke map would ensure that this Court maintains its judicial neutrality in remedying the violation in the enjoined maps.
February 19, 2024
Gov. Evers signed the first non-gerrymandered maps in over a decade, ensuring that Wisconsinites will vote in constitutional state legislative districts in time for the 2024 election.