Wisconsin Supreme Court – Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission Amicus Brief Filed

On February 8, the State Democracy Research Initiative’s faculty co-directors Miriam Seifter and Rob Yablon filed a second amicus brief along with five other legal scholars in Clarke v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, a redistricting case pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

In a December decision, the Clarke court struck down Wisconsin’s current state legislative maps as violating the Wisconsin Constitution’s requirement that districts be contiguous. The court is now in the phase of selecting new maps to govern Wisconsin’s legislative elections going forward.

The amicus brief filed Thursday offers historical and constitutional reasons for the court to adopt legislative maps that evenhandedly promote majority rule. It emphasizes that, prior to 2011, Wisconsin’s state legislative maps reliably translated the people’s aggregate statewide voting preferences into legislative majorities. From the advent of the “one person, one vote” era in the mid-1960s until 2010, a period spanning more than 20 Wisconsin legislative elections, a party never won control of both the Assembly and Senate despite winning only a minority of the total statewide votes for each chamber. And even in the decades prior, counter-majoritarian outcomes were exceedingly rare. The brief argues that majoritarian outcomes—outcomes where the majority statewide vote translates to a majority in the legislature—accord with the Wisconsin Constitution’s foundational democratic commitments.

The group of legal scholars includes Richard Briffault (Columbia Law School), Jessica Bulman-Pozen (Columbia Law School), James A. Gardner (University at Buffalo School of Law), Jonathan Marshfield (University of Florida Levin College of Law), and Robert F. Williams (Rutgers University School of Law). Staff Attorney Bryna Godar contributed significantly to this brief. This same group also filed an earlier amicus brief in this case, available here.