Wisconsin
Congressional BoundariesDrawn by legislature
State BoundariesDrawn by legislature
Governor's PartyDemocratic
Legislative PartyRepublican

Census-related Redistricting Timeline Delays

State Legislative

Alert:
Low

Congressional

Alert:
Low

Process

State Legislature

Wisconsin's state legislative and congressional lines are drawn by the Legislature via statute, and are subject to the Governor's veto. The Legislature can override vetoes with a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

Advisory Commission

On January 27, 2020, Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order to create the People’s Maps Commission, a nonstatutory, citizen redistricting commission which will create draft maps to submit to the Legislature.

  • Governor Evers named the nine members of the Commission on September 10, 2020. The Commission has begun a series of hearings, each focused on a different Congressional district, where public comment is received.
  • These maps must meet the following criteria: free from partisan advantage; avoid diluting minority votes; be compact and contiguous; avoid splitting wards and municipalities; retain population cores; maintain traditional communities of interest; and prevent voter disenfranchisement.
  • Under state law, however, this commission will be advisory to the Governor. Republican legislators have already spoken against the executive order and reportedly plan to draw maps separate from the commission.

Criteria

In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, Wisconsin’s state constitution (Art. IV §§ 4, 5) requires that state legislative districts be compact, contiguous, and preserve political subdivisions. There are no state law requirements for congressional districts.

Public Input

Under Wisconsin state law, there is no public input requirement. In 2011, there was one public hearing held regarding the legislative districts. None were held about the congressional map. It is unclear whether legislative hearings will be held again in the next cycle.

Gov. Evers' executive order commission is supposed to hold at least one public hearing in each of Wisconsin's eight congressional districts. A tentative schedule of hearings is set for September 2020 through April 2021; the full list of dates can be found here.

Issues

Pitfalls

Wisconsin is home to some of the most extreme partisan gerrymanders in the United States. It was the subject of the 2018 case of Gill v. Whitford, in which a lower court found the state Assembly plan to be an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The Supreme Court ultimately dismissed the case in light of its ruling in Rucho v. Common Cause that federal courts have no jurisdiction to hear partisan gerrymandering claims.

A recent petition would send any challenge to redistricting plans directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservatives. It is likely that there will be legal challenges to whatever plans are adopted, given the partisan split between the Republican Legislature and the Democratic Governor. Redistricting litigation has taken place in Wisconsin every decade since 1972.

Potential Reform

Companion bills SB288/AB303, introduced in June 2019, would have created a hybrid commission system under the Legislative Reference Bureau along with a Redistricting Advisory Commission. The bills would also have established a new list of redistricting criteria and required a more transparent process, including public hearings. They failed to pass the Legislature in April 2020.

Actions

In 2021, participate in the public input process.

  • Obtain Wisconsin redistricting data from OpenPrecincts.
  • Start to plan out what defines your community – whether it’s a shared economic interest, school districts, or other social or other cultural, historical, or economic interests – and how that can be represented on a map. This will come in handy once the advisory commission and Legislature start collecting feedback.
  • Use software tools such as Dave's Redistricting App and Districtr to draw district maps showing either (a) what a fair map would look like, or (b) where the community you believe should be better represented is located.

Read the Common Cause Activist Handbook on Redistricting Reform to learn about what reforms have been successful in the past, and what steps to take to enact reform in the future. 

  • Work to create a permanent Independent Redistricting Commission, beyond Governor Evers’ advisory commission.

Contacts

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin

Fair Maps WI

Sources

All About Redistricting

NCSL

Ballotpedia