Key Criteria for Map Improvement Highlighted
Consultants hired by the Wisconsin Supreme Court have identified the Republican Legislature and a conservative law firm’s maps as partisan gerrymanders. The consultants emphasized key criteria for improving the maps, including political neutrality, compactness, contiguity, and preserving communities of interest.
Significant Political Implications for Battleground State
The state of Wisconsin, known as a battleground state, faces significant political implications due to the gerrymandering issue. Despite Democratic wins in statewide elections, Republicans currently control the Legislature. The consultants’ report indicates that any of the maps could be improved based on the identified criteria for fairness and neutrality.
Consultants Prepared to Draw New Maps
While the consultants declined to draw their own maps, they stated that they could do so quickly if instructed by the court. This development raises the stakes for both political parties in Wisconsin, as Republicans have maintained control of the Legislature since 2011, despite Democrats winning statewide elections.
Report Confirms Gerrymandering, Governor Says
Governor Evers hailed the consultant’s report as confirmation that the Republican maps are indeed gerrymandered. He expressed optimism for a fairer redistricting process, stating that “the days of Wisconsinites living under some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country are numbered.”
Republican Majority Challenged
Under the maps enacted by Republicans in 2011 and 2022, the party has strengthened its hold on the Legislature, effectively blocking major policy initiatives by Governor Evers and Democratic lawmakers. However, a liberal candidate’s victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court last year paved the way for the court’s ruling in December that the maps are unconstitutional due to lack of contiguity.
Calls for New Maps
The court ordered new maps to be drawn, ensuring contiguous districts and avoiding favoritism towards any particular party. The consultants reviewed various proposed maps, including those submitted by Governor Evers, Democrats, Republicans, and academics. The consultants labeled the maps from the Legislature and the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty as “partisan gerrymanders.”
Geography Not Destiny
The consultants rejected Republican arguments that their majorities in the Legislature were a result of Democratic support being concentrated in cities, while the GOP had broader support in a larger geographic area. They emphasized that such insulation from electoral change is a hallmark of gerrymandering, stating that “geography is not destiny.”
Up to Wisconsin Supreme Court to Decide
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, with a 4-3 liberal majority, will ultimately decide which maps to enact. The state elections commission has set a deadline of March 15 for the decision to meet the requirements for fall candidates. Governor Evers recently vetoed an attempt by Republicans to enact new lines to avoid court-ordered maps, calling it another gerrymandering effort.
Tightened Margins Predicted
Under most of the newly proposed maps, Republicans would retain their majorities in the Legislature, but the margin would be significantly tightened. An analysis by a Marquette University researcher suggests that the changes would result in a more balanced political landscape.
This development in Wisconsin occurs amidst ongoing litigation in several states over congressional and state legislative districts enacted after the 2020 census. Democrats have also asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to consider a challenge to the state’s congressional district lines, arguing that the court’s decision on legislative maps opens the door for a broader legal battle.
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