A Christmas Gift for Democracy

Matthew G. Saroff
3 min readDec 26, 2023

Not in the least contiguous On a 4–3 vote, divided on partisan lines, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned the Republican Gerrymander.

Interestingly enough, this is not subject to Supreme Court review, because it is based on a specific section of the state constitution, and the Supreme Court does not do state constitutional issues.

In article IV, which defines the legislative branch, sections 4 and 5 state in explicit language that the districts for state representatives and state senators must be contiguous:

Section 4
The members of the assembly shall be chosen biennially, by single districts, on the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday of November in even− numbered years, by the qualified electors of the several districts, such districts to be bounded by county, precinct, town or ward lines, to consist of contiguous territory and be in as compact form as practicable.

Section 5
The senators shall be elected by single districts of convenient contiguous territory, at the same time and in the same manner as members of the assembly are required to be chosen; and no assembly district shall be divided in the formation of a senate district. The senate districts shall be numbered in the regular series, and the senators shall be chosen alternately from the odd and even−numbered districts for the term of 4 years.

(Emphasis mine)

The requirement that districts be contiguous is right there in the text of the Wisconsin Constitution. It seems to me that this is what is called black letter law. It is explicit and definitive.

The requirement for compactness is a bit less clear, given that the, “As compact form as practicable,” seems to give the legislature more wiggle room.

Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative district boundaries are unconstitutional and must be redrawn before next year’s elections, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided in a landmark ruling Friday that could dramatically alter the makeup of the Legislature.

In a 4–3 decision, the state’s highest court ruled the current, Republican-drawn maps violate the Wisconsin Constitution’s requirement that legislative districts be contiguous.

The decision marks a big political win for Democrats. Redistricting experts have said new maps drawn under nonpartisan principles are likely to give Democrats many more legislative seats, though Republicans are still likely to keep the majority given the state’s political geography. Under the current maps Republicans hold a 64–35 majority in the Assembly and a 22–11 supermajority in the Senate.


“At least 50 assembly districts and at least 20 senate districts include separate, detached parts,” Karofsky wrote in the majority opinion. “That is to say, a majority of the districts in both the assembly and the senate” violate the constitutional requirement for districts to be contiguous.

Of course, the self-described originalist Republican judges are whining about following the explicit text in the constitution, because ……… The Aristocrats!


“The court of four takes a wrecking ball to the law, making no room, nor having any need, for longstanding practices, procedures, traditions, the law, or even their co-equal fellow branches of government,” she [Judge Annette Ziegler] said. “Such power-hungry activism is dangerous to our constitutional framework and undermines the judiciary.”

Shorter version of their demented tirades, “How dare judges follow the law as written!”

I’ve got the world’s smallest violin just for you, you contemptible partisan hack.