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Wisconsin Republican lawmakers release redistricting plans

Senate Majority Leader Devin LaMahieu and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos introduced new maps for Congressional, Assembly, and Senate districts last Wednesday.

In a press release sharing the maps, Vos said, “the Legislature took into account plans submitted from citizens all over the state and considered submissions from the governor’s People’s Maps Commission, so we are confident these maps are fair for all Wisconsinites.”

You can view the maps here.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau found the maps met the law requirements in terms of equal population distribution.

Groups like the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign call the maps gerrymandered and heavily skewed in favor of Republicans.

“The tricks they used in 2011. They’re using again in here in 2021 and one of those tricks is to split up as many cities as possible where democratic votes are congregated. Then splintering those democratic voters into more conservative Republican rural areas. 48 cities they split up in these new maps,” said Executive Director Matt Rothschild.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is a non-partisan non-profit that tracks money in politics and advocates for pro-democracy reforms, including banning gerrymandering.

Rothschild said drawing the maps like this makes the races uncompetitive, going ten points for Republicans in one district and 10 points to Democrats in another.

He said this means elections are decided in the primaries rather than general elections.

“When you have highly uncompetitive districts the politicians who are elected from the districts ignore the votes of 45% of their constituents. It just leads to hyper partisanship, rudeness and lack of co-operation in Madison. Essentially, the people of Wisconsin of not getting what the people of Wisconsin want,” Rothschild said.

Rothschild said the problem is that 2011 maps the new ones are based on were heavily gerrymandered when Republicans control the legislature and the Governor’s office.

He believes the best way to prevent gerrymandering is by changing state law.

“Whichever political party is in power when the data from the census bureau comes in, that political party wants to cement its hold on power for another 10 years. Gerrymandering is wrong whether democrats are rigging the maps or whether republicans are rigging the maps,” he said.

Rothschild supports a bill in the legislature right now that would make the process non-partisan.

Though he admits it’s unlikely to pass.

Proposed congressional maps based on 2020 Census Data. The map on the left was drawn by Republican lawmakers. The map on the right is one of three congressional maps drawn by the People's Map Commission.
Proposed congressional maps based on 2020 Census Data. The map on the left was drawn by Republican lawmakers. The map on the right is one of three congressional maps drawn by the People's Map Commission.

This year, Rothschild would like to see the maps created by the People’s Map Commission used, saying those were created in a much more fair and open process.

Governor Tony Evers has said he would veto any maps based on the current maps created in 2011.

This likely means the final decision of the maps will come down to the courts.

There are already two cases about the map drawing process making their ways through court now, one in state and one in federal court.

“Ultimately what I think is going to happen is that federal courts will decide this issue, because they’re real federal issues at stake including one person, one vote. Racial gerrymandering may be an issue as well,” said Rothschild. “I think it’s up to the federal court, who really have the expertise in that area to figure this one out and to appoint an expert to draw the maps that we can use in next year’s election. Time’s a wasting.”

There will be a public hearing in Madison for the maps this Thursday.

Lawmakers plan to vote on them in early November.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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