Op Ed

Evers’ Smart Move on Political Maps

Submits redistricting maps to Supreme Court that move fewer voters than Republicans’ maps.

By - Dec 19th, 2021 11:28 am
Gov. Tony Evers

Gov. Tony Evers. Photo by Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Gov. Tony Evers may have just out-maneuvered Republicans at their own game. But maybe not.

Evers submitted redistricting maps to the state Supreme Court yesterday which comply with the court’s order to deviate as little as possible from current maps. And yet his maps also achieve pretty much the same projected partisan split as the maps created under his nonpartisan People’s Maps Commission.

Here’s the breakdown on the percentage of people who would find themselves in new districts.

Evers GOP
Pop. moved between Assembly Districts 14.21% 15.84%
Pop. moved between Senate Districts 7.83% 7.79%
Pop. moved between Congressional Districts 5.5% 6.52%

And yet here’s the projected and current breakdown of partisan splits in the Assembly, Senate and Congress.

Evers Commission GOP Current
Assembly 55-44 55-44* 62-37 61-38
Senate 20-13 17-16* 22-11 21-12
Congress 5-3 5-2-1** 6-2 5-3

Note: * The People’s Maps Commission offered three scenarios. I’ve listed the most evenly split scenario. The others give the GOP an even greater advantage. ** The Commission had one Congressional seat (the 3rd District) that was not easily projected for either party.

So those two charts show that Evers’ maps would produce somewhat closer partisan advantages and do it by moving fewer voters between districts, except for a very slight advantage to the Republican maps for the Senate. If one were to take the Supreme Court majority at its word, you would think that they’d accept Evers’ proposal over the Republican plan.

But here’s the not-so-good news. The percentage of voters moved is only one way to look at it. Legal criteria for map drawing requires that, to the greatest extent possible, municipalities and communities of interest are kept together. On that score, the GOP maps do better.

Evers’ maps would create one more majority Black district (a community of interest), but on splitting municipalities and counties here’s how it breaks down.

Evers GOP
Counties Split for Assembly 53 53
Municipalities Split for Assembly 174 48
Counties Split for Senate 45 42
Municipalities Split for Senate 118 28
Counties Split for Congress 12 10
Municipalities Split for Congress 47 24

So, there’s your problem. It comes down to how the court wants to define “least change.” If they want to define it by percentage of voters moved between districts, Evers wins. If they want to hang their hat on splitting up local governments between districts, the Republicans win.

But what this does do is put Justice Brian Hagedorn back into the mix. Hagedorn, who has shown some independence from the rest of the conservatives on the court, disappointed some when he became part of the conservative majority that voted to essentially lock in the gerrymandered advantages in the current maps.

Now Evers has given him a way out; a way to remain true to the principle of least change and also to provide a somewhat more competitive environment, one in fact that is very close to what the People’s Maps Commission had proposed.

On the other hand, the court conservatives could do a sort of bait and switch. They could essentially say, “Oh, that ‘least change’ thing we mentioned earlier? Never mind that. It was just a passing thought and it’s not actual criteria set in law anyway. But keeping units of government together is. So, Robin Vos, you win again!”

Hearings on these maps will take place before the court starting on January 18th and they want to make a decision before March 1st. After that, a federal court could intervene, but that’s looking unlikely because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the issue of extreme partisan gerrymandering is not one for federal courts to decide.

I’m not feeling confident about the final outcome, but credit Evers for finding a clever way to get fairer maps back before the court with at least a slim chance of prevailing.

Dave Cieslewicz, Editor, Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

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