Case: Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission

2023AP001399 | Wisconsin state supreme court

Filed Date: Aug. 2, 2023

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On August 2, 2023, a group of nineteen Wisconsin voters filed a petition for an original action in the Wisconsin Supreme Court under Wis. Const. art. I, §§ 1, 3-4, 22 and art. IV, §§ 4-5 against the Wisconsin Elections Commissions, members and staff of the Commission, and state senators from districts where special elections must be called to remedy the unconstitutional maps. Plaintiffs claimed that the state legislative maps were unconstitutionally partisan gerrymanders that denied voters equa…

On August 2, 2023, a group of nineteen Wisconsin voters filed a petition for an original action in the Wisconsin Supreme Court under Wis. Const. art. I, §§ 1, 3-4, 22 and art. IV, §§ 4-5 against the Wisconsin Elections Commissions, members and staff of the Commission, and state senators from districts where special elections must be called to remedy the unconstitutional maps. Plaintiffs claimed that the state legislative maps were unconstitutionally partisan gerrymanders that denied voters equal protection and free association rights and retaliated against voters based on their political beliefs.

Represented by the Campaign Legal Center, the Election Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, Law Forward Inc., and private counsel, the plaintiffs sought (1) a declaration that the current assembly and senate plans were unconstitutional in their entirety and an injunction against them being used in any future election (including the November 2024 election and any earlier special or recall elections that may occur); (2) a declaration that a remedial plan will not adhere to any “least-changes” approach but rather must comply with the Constitution’s Article IV requirements and its Article I Declaration of Rights protections, including by ensuring that this Court does not impose maps with a partisan skew; (3) acceptance of proposed remedial maps from the parties for either (a) review and selection by the Court or (b) review and recommendation to this Court by a referee or special master appointed pursuant to Wis. Stat. §§ 751.09 and 805.06; (4) issuance of a writ quo warranto declaring the election of senators in November 2022 from unconstitutionally configured districts to be unlawful, with senators holding those seats being merely de facto officers, and an order for special elections in November 2024 for all odd-numbered state senate districts that would not otherwise occur until November 2026. Plaintiffs also sought the following relief in the event that the Court granted plaintiffs petition for an original action with respect to their partisan gerrymandering claims: (5) a declaration that plaintiffs’ partisan gerrymandering claims are justiciable; (6) a declaration that plaintiffs have stated causes of action for partisan gerrymandering in violation of (a) the Wisconsin Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, (b) the Wisconsin Constitution’s guarantee of free expression and right to associate to advance their political beliefs, and (c) the Wisconsin Constitution’s maintenance of free government clause; (7) the appointment of a referee pursuant to Wis. Stat. §§ 751.09 and 805.06 to conduct an evidentiary hearing on plaintiffs’ partisan gerrymandering claims and report findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Court; and (8) briefing and argument from the parties supporting or opposing the referee’s findings of facts and conclusions of law.

On October 6, 2023, the Wisconsin Supreme Court granted plaintiffs’ petition for an original action. Oral argument was then held on November 21, 2023. On December 22, 2023, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an opinion striking down the maps as unconstitutional. The Court held that Wisconsin’s state legislative districts were plainly in violation of the contiguity requirements in Article IV, Sections 4 and 5 of the Wisconsin State Constitution, and therefore enjoined the Wisconsin Elections Commission from using the current legislative maps in future elections. However, the Court declined to invalidate the results of the 2022 state senate elections.

Judicial review of the remedial maps is ongoing.

Summary Authors

Alex DiLalla (4/23/2024)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

2023AP001399

Petition to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin to take Jurisdiction of an Original Action

Aug. 2, 2023

Aug. 2, 2023

Complaint

2023AP001399

Memorandum Decision and Order of Justice Janet C. Protasiewicz

Oct. 6, 2023

Oct. 6, 2023

Order/Opinion

995 N.W.2d 995

2023AP001399

Order Granting the Original Action

Oct. 6, 2023

Oct. 6, 2023

Order/Opinion

995 N.W.2d 995

2023AP001399

Decision

Dec. 22, 2023

Dec. 22, 2023

Order/Opinion

998 N.W.2d 998

Resources

Docket

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Wisconsin

Case Type(s):

Election/Voting Rights

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 2, 2023

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

A group of nineteen Wisconsin voters.

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Wisconsin Elections Commission, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Special Case Type(s):

Appellate Court is initial court

Available Documents:

Complaint (any)

Non-settlement Outcome

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Issues

Voting:

Redistricting/district composition