Redistricting Fight Is One Year Away
So why are Evers and Democrats putting spotlight on it now?
All that Capitol noise recently on redistricting –- the every-10-years requirement to redraw districts for state legislative and U.S. House seats –- amounted to spring training or, if you prefer, batting practice on that issue.
Because there will be no Census data for anyone – Republicans who control the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who must sign into law any redistricting plan passed by the Legislature – to fight over until next year.
The real redistricting game won’t be played until spring 2021, by which time the 2020 Census data will available, and the results of the Nov. 3, 2020 election will have prompted a musical-chairs game of who has more or less political power in the Capitol.
As he promised to do in his State of the State speech, Evers signed an order creating a People’s Maps Commission. The order noted that the panel can’t do anything until “after the 2020 Census data is made available.”
“Commission members may not be elected officials, public officials, lobbyists or political party officials,” the order said.
Who can serve on it? “Members from each of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts, members from communities of interest, and experts in non-partisan redistricting.”
Why is the Commission needed? The legislative district lines Republicans drew in 2011 “are some of the most gerrymandered extreme maps in the U.S…[with] approximately 50 times more voters moved to new districts than was necessary,” according to governor’s order.
Signed into law by then-Republican Gov. Scott Walker, the 2011 maps helped Republicans keep control of the Legislature for a decade. The GOP controls the Assembly by a 63-36 margin.
“When it comes to the integrity of the process and the fairness of the maps, Wisconsin must look to the people, not the politicians, that could assist in drawing maps that are fairly and accurately representing our state,” Evers said.
Wrong, Kaul said. “Not only is the public allowed to have input into what our maps look like, but that’s the way our process should work,” he said. “It’s the people of Wisconsin that have the power.”
Anyone with access to 2020 Census data next year, and who is also computer and software savvy enough to superimpose that data over the boundaries of local units of government, can draw up plans dividing the state into 99 Assembly districts, 33 state Senate districts and eight U.S. House districts.
But the difference between the maps drawn by someone in their pajamas on their home computer and the maps the People’s Commission will draft is this: Evers will formally submit the Commission’s plans to the Legislature to consider and, he hopes, enact.
But does the Legislature have to formally consider, or vote on, maps from the People’s Commission or anyone else? No.
In 2011, consultants and staffers for those GOP leaders drew maps in the restricted offices of private law firms, only showed them to Republican legislators who had signed secrecy oaths and billed taxpayers for all those costs.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called the governor’s People’s Commission a “fake, phony, partisan process” and noted the limited role a governor plays in the redistricting process. ”Whatever Gov. Evers wants to do, he has one part in this role to play: he has the ability to sign or veto a map. He doesn’t get to draw them,” Vos said.
If legislators and the governor can’t agree on new U.S. House, state Senate and state Assembly boundaries, judges may ultimately draw them. Again.
Federal judges signed off on the 2011 legislative maps, for example, after only slightly tweaking two City of Milwaukee Assembly districts.
The final 2011 district lines for the eight U.S. House seats were dictated by Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who is not running again and won’t – officially – be involved in the spring 2021 fight.
So all that Capitol “huffing and puffing,” to use an Evers term, recently over redistricting? Spring training. Batting practice. Dress rehearsal before the play’s opening night.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.
- Gerrymandering a Threat to Our Democracy - Tom Palzewicz - Aug 6th, 2020
- Gerrymandering Creates Difficult Road for Dems in Wisconsin - Tom Palzewicz - Aug 4th, 2020
- The People’s Maps Commission application deadline is this Friday - Ald. Khalif Rainey - Jul 29th, 2020
- Op Ed: Why Vos and Fitzgerald Fear Fair Maps - Jay Heck - Jul 23rd, 2020
- Op Ed: People’s Maps Commission Seeks Fair Elections - State Sen. Jeff Smith - Jul 21st, 2020
- Gov. Evers Delivers Democratic Radio Address on The People’s Maps Commission - Gov. Tony Evers - Jul 9th, 2020
- Statement from Senator Erpenbach on The People’s Maps Commission - State Sen. Jon Erpenbach - Jul 9th, 2020
- Gov. Evers Announces People’s Maps Commission Application and Selection Processes - Gov. Tony Evers - Jul 9th, 2020
- 8 More Counties Plan Referendum on Gerrymandering - Matt Rothschild - Jun 29th, 2020
- Op Ed: Jensen Tries to Pre-Rig Redistricting - Matt Rothschild - Jun 9th, 2020
Read more about Gerrymandering of Legislative Districts here