A panel of three federal judges on Thursday rejected a request from Republicans to dismiss redistricting litigation filed by Democrats, allowing a federal case to continue as lawmakers work to draft political maps that will be used for the next decade.
The federal panel ruled to consolidate two redistricting cases, one filed by a prominent national Democratic attorney on behalf of a group of Democratic voters; and another filed by the firm Law Forward on behalf of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, Voces de La Frontera, the League of Women Voters and others.
The court also ruled to allow Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin’s five GOP congressmen to intervene in the case.
The consolidated lawsuit asks the federal court to invalidate Wisconsin’s current political maps and draw new ones if the Legislature and governor don’t agree on a plan on time for implementing new decennial maps.
Republicans in the state Legislature had called for dismissal of the federal case to allow the state Legislature, and potentially state courts, to resolve the redistricting process on their own.
Wisconsin law gives the Legislature and governor the responsibility to pass new political maps. Courts typically step in if lawmakers reach an impasse.
In its ruling, the federal judicial panel said it is inclined to put the case on hold temporarily — but not indefinitely — to allow lawmakers and potentially state courts the first attempt at drawing new maps.
But the panel said it would set a schedule of proceedings that would allow for “timely resolution of the case should the state process languish or fail.”
The panel referenced recent state history, where federal courts, not state courts, have intervened in the last three redistricting cycles in which Wisconsin has had divided government.
The next hearing in the case is Tuesday.