Wisconsin redistricting: Evers group boundary ideas unveiled

Wisconsin Capitol in Madison

New political maps drawn up by a redistricting commission established by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would improve prospects for Wisconsin Democrats, although Republicans would likely maintain their legislative majorities, according to proposals unveiled Thursday.

The People's Maps Commission presented three versions each of new Assembly, Senate and Congressional maps for lawmakers and judges to consider for the once-a-decade job of redistricting. The Republican-controlled Legislature has approved guidelines requiring that the new maps adhere as closely as possible to ones drawn a decade ago.

Evers has said it’s unlikely he would sign maps that are based on the ones in place now.

The Republican-drawn maps enacted in 2011 solidified GOP majorities in the Legislature and have been identified as among the most gerrymandered in the country. In the 2020 election, Democratic candidates received 46% of total votes cast in state Assembly races, but ended up with only 38 of 99 seats after winning two new districts, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

The three versions of Assembly maps offered by the commission would give Republicans a majority of 55, 56, or 58 of 99 members, respectively, if voters cast ballots according to the 2018 governor’s race, when Evers defeated Scott Walker with 50.56% of the vote compared with Walker’s 49.44%. The three versions of state Senate maps would give Republicans a majority of 17, 18, or 19 of 33 members, respectively, under a 2018 governor’s race scenario.

An Associated Press analysis found that Republicans won about 16 more U.S. House seats in 2018 and held on to seven more state legislative chambers, including the Wisconsin Assembly, than would have been expected to based on their average share of the vote in congressional districts across the country.

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Commission member Anthony Phillips said members prioritized respect for community cohesiveness and avoiding splitting counties and municipalities as best as possible. The new maps "would be healthy for the state of Wisconsin," he said.

"I think these maps have moved the yardstick," Phillips said. "These maps were drawn with a completely nonpartisan philosophy."

Republican leaders have criticized the commission and some have called it unconstitutional. 

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