Wisconsin GOP releases redistricting plan, maps blasted as 'rigged'

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature released their redistricting plans on Wednesday, maps that were immediately blasted as "rigged" because they are based largely on existing districts the GOP drew a decade ago that solidified their majorities.

The courts will likely have the final word in the maps, but the next step will be a public hearing and votes in the Legislature to pass the new legislative and congressional maps in early November.

The GOP maps came on the same day that a commission created by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers released revised maps following criticism that their initial plans didn't have more majority-minority districts. The Legislature does not have to consider those maps, but they could be considered by a court that is likely to approve the final district lines.

Republicans back a lawsuit before the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court, while Democrats have filed a lawsuit in federal court. Given that Evers is unlikely to sign off on the Republican-drawn plans, a court is widely expected to decide on what the maps should look like. That is historically how redistricting disputes have been settled.

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.

Republicans want the new maps, which will be in place for a decade, to be based on the current lines. But Democrats argue those are so gerrymandered that maps must be drawn from scratch.

Sachin Chheda, director of the Fair Elections Project, said because the new maps are based largely on the existing ones, Republicans were "trying to rig the maps for another cycle and pull the wool over our eyes."

He said the next critical step was for there to be enough time to fully analyze the maps and have multiple public hearings to gather feedback. He also called for Republicans to take up the maps created by Evers’ commission.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was dismissive of the governor’s map commission when it was first announced, calling it a "fake, phony, partisan process." But on Wednesday, Vos said the Legislature took into account plans submitted by citizens as well as the governor’s map commission.

"We are confident these maps are fair for all Wisconsinites," he said.

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Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said there was an "unprecedented level of input and influence over the map-drawing efforts. We encouraged Wisconsinites to play an active role in the process, and their participation has fundamentally shaped the way the maps were drawn."

The new Assembly districts would pit six Republican incumbents against each other in new districts. No Democratic incumbents would be placed in the same districts and there would be no incumbent matchups in the Senate.

In the Assembly, Reps. Joe Sanfelippo and Mike Kuglitsch would square off in the new 15th District in the western Milwaukee suburbs; Ken Skowronski would face Chuck Wichgers in the new 82nd District in the southwestern Milwaukee suburbs; and Shannon Zimmerman would face Warren Petryk in the new 93rd District in western Wisconsin.

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Republicans currently hold a 61-38 majority in the Assembly and a 21-12 advantage in the Senate. Republicans also hold five of the state's eight congressional districts. The number of districts do not change under the new maps, based on 2020 population levels.

The maps will be subject to a public committee hearing before the Legislature takes them up sometime in early November.

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