WHEELERweek – Redistricting

As published by The Wheeler Report – 03/06/92…

The Assembly gave preliminary approval to a measure re-drawing political boundaries. Republicans have already asked a federal court to reapportion the state.

As published by The Wheeler Report – 02/17/12…

Sens. Cullen and Schultz are introducing a constitutional amendment making redistricting the responsibility of an “Independent Redistricting Commission.” The amendment says the commission would draft the redistricting plans and those plans would be submitted to voters in a referendum. If voters rejected the plan, the Supreme Court would be required to draw a redistricting plan and those plans would become law.

In addition to the constitutional amendment, the two senators drafted proposed enabling legislation. The legislation would not be introduced until the constitution is changed, so the proposal is for information only. The proposal creates the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC), consisting of one member appointed by the Senate majority leader; one by the Senate minority leader; one appointed by the minority leader of the Assembly; and one member appointed by GAB. A member would serve a ten year term, starting September 1 of the federal census year. The IRC would be required to develop standards to make districts as compact and contiguous as possible. The IRC must also keep the districts as “electorally competitive” as possible. The redistricting proposal must be submitted no later than Jan. 1 of the second year following the census, and the IRC must hold five public hearings on the plans. The IRC would submit the plans for referendum to be held at the next spring election. If the plan were to be approved, it would become law, if not approved the Supreme Court would prepare new plans no later than July 1 of the 2nd year following the census.

A Brief History…

On March 5, 1992, SB-547, SB-548, SB-549, and SB-550 were introduced. All of the bills concerned the redistricting of legislative and congressional districts.

SB-148 and SB-149 were introduced on July 11, 2011 for legislative and congressional redistricting. These bills allow for the state to redistrict its congressional and legislative maps, according to the population numbers from the 2010 census. SB-148 and SB-149 passed the senate on July 19, 2011. SB-148 was passed in the assembly on July 20, 2011, 57-40. SB-149 was passed 59-38 on July 20, 2011. The maps proposed in 2011 Wisconsin Acts 43 and 44 were enacted on August 9, 2011, and were contested in the case Gill v. Whitford.

According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, redistricting in Wisconsin is the responsibility of the legislature, and the county and municipal clerks assist in implementing new district lines. In 2011, the Republican legislators who held a majority in the Assembly and Senate drew lines using REDMAP (Redistricting Majority Project) based on the information from the 2010 census. The REDMAP website indicates that $1.1 million was allocated to Wisconsin to win more Republican seats.

According to Daniel Tokaji, an elections professor at Ohio State University, independent commissions “are preferable to ensure the redistricting process is fairer, less susceptible to political party influence, and more aligned with legal requirements.” Additionally, they “have the ability to draw fair lines without regard to partisan effects.” Wisconsin has not used an independent redistricting commission to redraw district lines since the 1950s and 1970s.

Generally, maps are drawn starting with county board districts, wards, aldermanic districts, and then move up to eventually cover the congressional and legislative districts for the whole state. In 2011, the redistricting maps were drawn by the legislature first rather than drawn bottom up and starting with local municipalities. All state maps were composed by the legislature rather than the cities.

And Today…

Gill v. Whitford was brought to the U.S. Supreme Court as a partisan gerrymandering case. The case was brought by Democratic citizens who argued that the redistricting map was unconstitutional. The District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled in favor of Whitford due to the efficiency gap measurement and Wisconsin was ordered to have new maps by 2017. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion on Gill v. Whitford on Monday, June 18. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to send the case back to lower courts because the plaintiffs lacked standing in bringing suit.