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WI Advocates: SCOTUS Decision to Have Major Impact on Black Communities

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Tuesday, March 29, 2022   

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Wisconsin's legislative redistricting plan, a move advocates said will have long-lasting impacts for the state's communities of color.

In its decision, the nation's high court held the plan, submitted by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and approved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court a few weeks ago, improperly added a new majority-Black Assembly district in Milwaukee.

Jamie Lynn Crofts, policy director for the Milwaukee-based organization Wisconsin Voices, said even Evers' maps did not adequately represent Black residents in Milwaukee, as non-Black voters comprised around 49% of residents in some of what the governor labeled majority-Black districts.

"So for example, the district with the highest percentage of Black voters was 51.39% Black, and the rest of the districts had under 51% Black voters," Crofts explained.

The decision, which will compel the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reestablish new legislative district lines, comes as candidates are about to start picking up signatures to get on the ballot for the fall elections. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported candidates cannot actually file the paperwork until they know which district in which they are running.

The Voting Rights Act compels states to establish districts where a majority of the population are residents of color. But with the bare majority outlined in Evers' proposal, Crofts argued the population of Black residents in the districts could decline below the 50% mark by the next round of redistricting in 2031.

"A lot of these districts were combined with suburban, white voting blocs," Crofts observed. "And these suburbs, we know, are growing as well."

Tomika Vukovic, co-executive director of organizational empowerment for Wisconsin Voices, said she feels lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have disregarded concerns over Milwaukee's Black-majority districts, although the issue has been highlighted by Milwaukee politicians and social-justice groups throughout the redistricting process.

With the debate back before the state Supreme Court, she said voters should take the chance to raise their concerns with the state's high court.

"And these judges are actually elected," Vukovic pointed out. "They are elected, and they have a chief of staff. You can write letters to them."

The challenge to Evers' maps was brought by legislative Republicans, who are hoping to enact their own voting maps. Voting-rights groups, including Wisconsin Voices, and Democrats argued the GOP's proposals are gerrymandered.

While Evers' state legislative maps were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices allowed the state to push ahead with Evers' congressional redistricting plan.

Disclosure: Wisconsin Voices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Community Issues and Volunteering, Human Rights/Racial Justice, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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