Redistricting poised as a top political issue of 2021

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 10:12 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2021 at 10:23 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - It comes once a decade, and, this year, Gov. Tony Evers wants to see it done “in the light of day.”

Redistricting. It’s the job of the state Legislature to re-draw the electoral district map after the Census reveals the latest data of who lives where. The goal is to make each district equal in size, but in doing so, party politics can get in the way.

Gov. Evers highlighted the project, happening this year, during his State of the State address Tuesday night. “Wisconsinites don’t want maps that favor any political candidate or party—we just want maps where either candidate can win. Folks, that’s just common sense,” he said.

He announced his biennial budget will “make sure” the Legislature draws district maps in a public process. It was a jab at state GOP leaders, from the last time they took up the task.

The 2010 map, as UW-Madison political science professor Kenneth Mayer explained, was widely criticized after being created by the Assembly’s top Republicans and their lawyers. According to the rulings of federal courts, the party claimed attorney-client privilege and did not release the details of its map.

Mayer said this situation gave the GOP an unfair political advantage, a result of gerrymandering.

“That was one of the most extreme gerrymanders in American history,” Mayer said. “And that’s not me saying that. That’s the federal court that evaluated it and overturned it.”

Robin Vos, a member of the assembly then and the speaker now, said Tuesday after the governor’s speech that he will “definitely” make redistricting a public process.

“It might not be the one that Governor Evers wants, where his hand-picked liberals have the ability to try to draw maps that will somehow help them at election time,” Vos said. “We prefer to go through the process like we have every year before, where we have a chance to draw the maps [and] we also have a chance for public input. We’ll pick the best product and hope Governor Evers will sign those bills.”

After last year’s State of the State address, the governor created the People’s Maps Commission. The nine-member group is tasked with listening to Wisconsinites, as it did in Thursday night’s public hearing, then drawing its own electoral map for the Legislature’s consideration. Mayer noted, the commission does not have the ability to require the Legislature to consider its maps. Rather, it presents an alternative map.

Mayer predicts the governor will veto the Republicans’ map. In that case, it could fall on federal courts to draw the districts themselves.

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