The legal fight over the next round of redistricting in Wisconsin kicked off Wednesday, a full year before lawmakers begin drawing election maps.
The filing of a request to change state court rules by a former Republican legislative leader reflects the enormity of the political stakes. And it tacitly recognizes that it is all but certain to be courts that have the final say on what legislative and congressional districts look like for the next decade.
Where the lines are drawn plays a major role in determining who controls the Legislature and has an upper hand in the state’s congressional delegation. Republican lawmakers established maps in 2011 that handed them large majorities in the Statehouse and an advantage in five of the state’s eight congressional districts.
The move to keep any litigation in state court was brought by former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen with the help of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. It seeks to put in place new rules to try to ensure the state Supreme Court — instead of federal courts — decides any redistricting litigation.
Both sides believe state court is a better forum for Republicans because conservatives control the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Litigation over the current maps played out before a panel of federal judges that dealt Republicans setbacks until the U.S. Supreme Court set a precedent in their favor in a pair of lawsuits from other states.