Redistricting in Wisconsin: State lawmakers to consider in November

Wisconsin State Capitol

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature plans to vote on a redistricting plan when it convenes in November, the Legislature's attorney told the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Although the Legislature plans to act by Nov. 11, additional times for considering redistricting could be added later this fall or winter, attorney Kevin St. John wrote in the letter filed Wednesday with the state’s highest court. But St. John said it was "likely" that the Legislature would approve a map this fall.

"The Legislature is committed to acting on redistricting legislation with all deliberate speed," St. John wrote.

Republican leaders have not said exactly when they planned to vote on new maps for the state's 132 legislative districts and eight congressional districts. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu did not immediately respond to messages Thursday seeking comment on the timeline for redistricting.

State legislatures are required to redraw political lines every decade based on the latest population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Mapmakers can create an advantage for their political party in future elections by packing opponents’ voters into a few districts or spreading them thin among multiple districts — a process known as gerrymandering.

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A website GOP leaders established for the public to submit maps will be accepting proposals until Oct. 15.

That means the Legislature will likely make its proposed maps public sometime after Oct. 15 and before the November floor period ends, which runs Nov. 2 through Nov. 11. A commission Gov. Tony Evers created released its proposed maps for public comment last week and plans to submit a final plan to the Legislature by the end of the month.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission, which runs elections, has said in court filings that new maps must be in place by March 1 in order for candidates to begin circulating nomination papers by April 15, a date set in law. St. John said the Legislature believes maps could be passed by the end of April.

The Legislature asked the Supreme Court to set a date for when maps must be complete, which St. John said would send a message to the federal court that Wisconsin's branches of government will complete redistricting on time.

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Evers. a Democrat, would have to sign the maps into law in order for them to take effect. He has indicated that is unlikely to happen. Historically, when the Legislature and governorship have been controlled by different parties, courts have drawn the maps.

Republicans want the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to draw the maps if Evers and the Legislature can't agree on new ones. Democrats have filed a lawsuit in federal court, noting that is where redistricting disputes have historically been settled.

Both lawsuits are proceeding even though the Legislature hasn't introduced maps yet, much less voted on any. The federal court has said it wants to complete a trial by the end of January so that it could rule on new maps by March. Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit.


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