In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers adopted legislative district maps that ensured their dominance in the legislature for at least a decade. Now, they’re looking to maintain that hold for another decade by changing Wisconsin’s voting districts as little as possible.
Senate and Congressional seats would also continue to favor Republicans, according to the Associated Press.
Governor Tony Evers tweeted today that he plans to veto the Republicans’ maps unless changes are made.
Wisconsinites want #fairmaps. Republicans will have to do better than the maps they released yesterday if they expect me to sign them—they need to go back to the drawing board.
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) October 21, 2021
Redistricting is undertaken once every ten years, in line with returns from the U.S. Census. In an ideal world, lawmakers impartially redraw voting lines based on several factors — including shifting populations, deference to communities of interest and provisions established in the Voting Rights Act.
When things go awry, and politicians draft maps that heavily favor their party and disregard those aforementioned factors, that’s gerrymandering.
The Republicans’ proposal didn’t come out of left field. Last month, the assembly passed a non-binding resolution that called for new maps to “retain as much as possible the core of existing districts.”
Speaking on the assembly floor in September, Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, a Democrat from Oshkosh, pointed out that those existing districts were drawn by Republicans behind closed doors with minimal public input.
“In 2011, we didn’t have transparency,” he said. “I think there are 13 of you remaining who signed the secret oath in the private law firm that you wouldn’t discuss the maps. But the idea that we would start with maps made in secret that dramatically changed and moved people around… You moved 719 times more voters than needed to move in one assembly district. You needed to move, for population purposes, about 230,0000 voters into new senate districts, but you chose to move 1.2 million of them.”
This time around, legislative Republicans launched a website to accept feedback on redistricting.
The Republican maps will almost certainly end up mired in the courts. In September, Vos rankled at the idea that the maps would end up in a legal battle — arguing that the legislative and executive branches shouldn’t cede authority to the judiciary.
“People somehow believe that the courts have to be the one to draw the districts,” Vos said. “I hope Governor Evers will change his mind, but he’s basically said he can’t see any map he would ever sign.”
A public hearing on the maps is set for next Thursday, October 28th at the state capitol building. The legislature is tentatively set to vote on the maps in early November.
Also yesterday, Wisconsin’s People’s Maps Commission introduced its own legislative and congressional maps. Established by Governor Tony Evers last year, the non-partisan commission has been collecting public input for the past several months.
Their proposals would still favor Republicans in the legislature and Congress — although slightly less than the GOP-drawn maps.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, six state Assembly districts currently have Black majorities and two have Hispanic majorities. The last batch of Commission maps had four districts with Black majorities, and two with Hispanic majorities.
The Commission’s updated proposals include nine assembly seats with combined Black and Hispanic majorities — as opposed to districts with distinctly Hispanic or distinctly Black majorities.
“Some of the critique we’ve gotten thus far was very warranted,” says Commission chair Christopher Ford. “There was some concern over maintaining the integrity of some of the majority-minority districts, so we’ve paid attention to that. We have a new filter on our Districtr software that we’re using to make sure our majority-minority African American populations as well as Hispanic American populations are intact and that they can carry a candidate of choice. So we’ve made some changes to the map in that respect.”
The Commission’s maps are non-binding and Republican lawmakers are not required to take them up — although Vos says that they “considered submissions” from the commission when drafting the GOP maps.
“We’re glad to hear that legislative leaders say that they’ve looked at a portion of the input that we’ve solicited, but we also hope that they’ll give Wisconsinites some time to look at their maps and make changes based on those comments,” Ford says.
The People’s Maps Commission will be considering public input on its new batch of maps until next Wednesday, October 27th.
Photo by Jonah Chester for WORT-FM