Seven new redistricting maps to be considered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court

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Posted at 9:46 AM, Jan 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-16 10:46:56-05

MILWAUKEE — New legislative maps could bring an end to the long-standing majority Republicans have held in Wisconsin.

Last month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the current maps unconstitutional. Friday was the deadline for proposed maps to be submitted. Justices will now select from the competing plans, choosing the maps that will likely be used for elections later this year.

The state's highest court is ordering that the maps must contain contiguous districts — meaning you can travel between any two points without crossing into a different district. And the maps must not favor one political party over the other.

"There are plans from the usual suspects," said John Johnson, Marquette University Law School Research Fellow. "The legislative Republicans, the Democratic state senators, Governor Evers, then also petitioners represented by some of the conservative and liberal law firms in the state."

Johnson analyzed all seven sets of the newly proposed state Senate and Assembly maps.

"There are a lot of different ways to measure the partisan impact of a plan," he explained. "The way I've chosen to do it is to model how the 2022 state legislative elections would have turned out if we'd held them in any of these districts."

Johnson believes it's likely that the proposed Assembly maps would preserve a Republican majority.

"The most Democratic leaning plan in the Assembly is the one proposed by the Law Forward law firm — and my estimate is that it would have created 49 Democratic seats in the 2022 election, which is one shy of a majority."

But his analysis also shows a path to change when looking at the maps put forth by Senate Democrats and a redistricting consultant.

"It's also worth saying that a couple of the proposed maps would actually probably create Democratic majorities in the State Senate," he added. "But it takes a while for that to take effect because only about half the senate seats are up for election in any given year."

The 2024 State Senate election will cover only even-numbered districts, 16 seats in total.

Johnson's analysis shows the map from the Democratic plaintiffs who brought the case includes the most Democratic-leaning even numbered seats, followed by the map from Governor Evers and Law Forward.

Johnson could not identify a plan that might rise above all others, in the eyes of the court.

"No plan does best across all of the criteria that the court cares about. And so it will be up to the court to decide which combination of scores on different metrics matters most, that's a judgment call."

Ultimately, what it means for you — the voter — is that you might find yourself in a new legislative district this year.

If we do get new maps out of this process, Johnson says it could mean a more competitive election year at the state level.

"That August partisan primary will be far more interesting than it usually is," he continued. "Incumbents might be drawn into new districts, you might have two previous incumbents running against each other in a primary, or an open seat with a lot of people throwing their hat in the ring."

So, what's next? Two consultants hired by the Supreme Court now have a February 1st deadline to evaluate the maps. That points to the court likely releasing the chosen maps in late February or early March. If new districts are to be in play in November, the Wisconsin Elections Commission has said maps must be in place by March 15th.

View interactive versions of the maps available here.