State Supreme Court receives seven proposals for new legislative maps

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the legislative maps as unconstitutional—and vowed to impose their own maps unless the Legislature and governor worked together on their own new boundaries for Senate and Assembly districts.

By Pat Kreitlow

January 17, 2024

Each provides more competition than the currently gerrymandered maps for Assembly and Senate districts, but the justices could also choose “none of the above” and draw new boundaries themselves.

Wisconsin, a state renowned for its lopsided legislature despite an evenly-split electorate, is one step closer to restoring competitive balance to its Assembly and Senate races after seven groups submitted proposals to help the state Supreme Court replace the current gerrymandered maps.

As they implement their Dec. 22 decision ordering new legislative maps, the justices have set a brisk timeline to put in place new boundaries for districts in time for voters to use them later this year.

All seven parties in the case submitted remedial maps by last Friday’s deadline—including Gov. Tony Evers, legislative Republicans, state Senate Democrats, the conservative legal group Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, UW-Milwaukee professors, and Law Forward, the progressive legal group that brought the case that justices decided by a 4-3 margin.

“These seven maps do a good job of showing the different perspectives that different parties may have,” Prof. Sam Wang of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project told UpNorthNews Radio. “And they show that it’s possible to make a tradeoff that satisfies all the court’s requirements.”

The court asked the parties to create new proposed maps that were more contiguous—unlike the current maps with a high number of disconnected pieces of land—and less likely to skew heavily in favor of one party or the other in a typical election, based on historical data. Outside analysis of the seven proposals shows the submission by legislative Republicans was least likely to abide by the court’s requirements.

“Their plan splits the most cities and it also has the most partisan deviation,” Wang said Monday on UpNorthNews Radio, “where Democrats would need 57% of the [statewide] vote to have a chance of getting an even split in the Assembly and 56% in the Senate. Conversely, Republicans would only need 43% of the vote to get a majority in the Assembly and 44% in the Senate.”

Wang praised maps submitted by Law Forward and Evers as coming closest to contiguous districts that had the most balanced partisan makeup—and even those maps show Republicans likely to maintain a majority in both houses, but not the two-thirds supermajority they have in the Senate and nearly have in the Assembly.

“Democratic voters are quite densely packed in cities, Republican in rural areas.” Wang said. “Republicans are favored, but not quite so lopsidedly. And so in that respect, it would be a change over the last several decades. Wisconsin would have maps that overall reflected the will of the people. Not too many city splits and [more] competition.”

Two consultants hired by the justices will now study the seven remedial maps and provide a recommendation by Feb. 1 for one of the proposals or draw their own map based on the information they received. The court wants to have a final map ready by March 15 so that legislative candidates can begin filing to run in the new districts.

Author

  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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