Thinking about Redistricting

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Thinking about Redistricting

May 17, 2017 - 08:31
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Thinking about Redistricting

Wisconsin’s Redistricting maps from the 2010 Census are in the federal court system and are apparently being re-drawn by the state legislators in Madison. A three judge Federal Panel found the maps unconstitutional in November, 2016 and on January 27th the State of Wisconsin was ordered to prepare new maps by November 1st of this year to be used in the 2018 election. The district boundaries for State Senate and Assembly are in question but apparently the Congressional District boundaries are acceptable.

The state’s request to wait for a Supreme Court decision was denied. As plaintiff, the Democrats’ request for the court to redraw the maps was also denied. Nevertheless, the state is appealing the ruling which might mean there are new maps drawn and then the Supreme Court decides the current maps are OK. These maps are normally redrawn every ten years after the federal census to comply with the “one man one vote” foundation of our government.

The justification for the court case is the plaintiff, the Democrats, feel the State Senate and State Assembly district boundaries were unfairly dawn to favor Republican candidates. Maybe it is changing voting patterns across Wisconsin and not the district boundaries at all. One way to evaluate this is to consider all the state-wide partisan elections from 2010 – the year before these maps became effective – until now.

In 2010 the Republican candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor won open seats and replaced Democrats. In 2010 the Republican challenger for US Senate defeated the Democrat incumbent. In 2010 the Republican challenger for State Treasurer defeated the Democrat incumbent. Think back to 2010: Democrat Jim Doyle was in his last year as Governor and Democrat Barack Obama was in his second year as President.

In 2012 Wisconsin voted for the Democrat candidate for President while in 2016 Wisconsin voted for the Republican candidate for President.

Simply summarized, in the 15 state-wide partisan elections in Wisconsin starting in 2010 to the present, the Republicans have won 73.3% of the time. This includes the 2010 elections when the Republicans defeated two incumbent Democrats and won the open Governor and Lieutenant Governor seats previously held by Democrats. It also includes the Governor’s and Lieutenant Governor’s recall elections in 2012. Is there any surprise that the Republicans control both the State Senate and the Assembly?

All is not perfect with the current maps. The 70th Assembly District, for example, stretches 90 miles from the La Crosse County line and the town and city of Sparta all the way northeast to the suburbs of Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids! To drive from part of the 3rd Congressional District in Jackson County direct to another part in Wood County, you have to travel through a significant distance in the 7th Congressional District. Monroe County, just east of La Crosse County, has townships in the 3rd and 7th Congressional District, the 50th, 70th, and 96th Assembly Districts, and the 17th, 24th, and 32nd State Senate Districts. Across the state, there are ten counties (not including Milwaukee County) that are split between two Congressional Districts.

The State Legislature was in such a hurry to draw the current maps that they didn’t allow the counties to complete the redistricting for county boards first. This too caused chaos.

In comparing the current Assembly and State Senate to recent state-wide election results, I question if there really is a constitutional problem. In comparing the current Assembly and State Senate district boundaries to local government boundaries, such as cities and counties, there is room for improvement!

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