Redistricting expert says Sheboygan could see drastic changes if legislative maps are redrawn

As an avid voter and longtime Democrat in Sheboygan County, Sandy Muesegades recalls a stark difference in legislative election outcomes before and after 2011.
Posted at 9:30 AM, Nov 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-22 10:30:42-05

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Wisconsin’s Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that seeks to overturn the state’s legislative maps.

Redistricting experts say the city of Sheboygan could see drastic changes to its assembly district boundaries if the legislative maps are ultimately redrawn.

As an avid voter and longtime Democrat in Sheboygan County, Sandy Muesegades recalls a stark difference in legislative election outcomes before and after 2011.

"It was a sad day and it divided the city,” she said. “It divided the county. Somebody drew lines and really it’s taking our voice away."

Prior to that year, the liberal-leaning city of Sheboygan was represented by a Democrat in the Wisconsin Assembly for all but four years dating back to the late 1950s as the city made up a majority of one district.

But when Republican lawmakers redrew the maps in 2011, the city was split into two assembly districts with more conservative voters in rural parts of the county. Both assembly seats have been held by Republican lawmakers since.

"It was just unexplainable how you could divide a city and families from one side or another side,” Muesegades said.

Job Hou-seye, a Sheboygan County Republican, couldn’t disagree more.

"I don't think it really matters that all of Sheboygan be in the 26th Assembly district,” he said. “Parts in the {27th}, parts in the 26. It's just a legislative map. It's not a big deal."

He thinks the maps that were largely left unchanged following the latest U.S. Census should remain the same.

"I'm not in favor of legislating from the court and that's what they're trying to do here,” Hou-seye said.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard two arguments Tuesday in a case that challenges the legality of the state’s legislative maps.

"One seeks to throw out the current maps based on the interpretation of what the state constitution means by territorially contiguous districts,” said Marquette University Law School Research Fellow John Johnson. “That means districts that where all the parts touch each other. The other argument is that the process to get these maps violated the state separation of powers doctrine."

Johnson thinks changes to Sheboygan’s assembly district serve as an example for both arguments because the state’s constitution says a municipality should remain in the same legislative district whenever it’s practical.

"Sheboygan has {49,931} people living in it. An assembly district needs to be 59,000. Right now, Sheboygan is split into two different districts. Both of which are Republican-leaning,” Johnson said. “The city of Sheboygan is Democratic-leaning. So if you were taking seriously this requirement to keep municipalities in tact, Sheboygan's a good example of a city that would be in just one district."

Johnson says it’s one of many assembly districts that could see major changes if the current maps are tossed and new districts are drawn. If that’s the case, voters could see new districts and new representatives as soon as sometime next year.