What is re-districting and why is a case about it heading to the Wisconsin Supreme Court?

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over a new challenge to Republican drawn maps. The results of the case could shift the balance of political power in Wisconsin.
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Posted at 11:19 AM, Nov 21, 2023

MADISON — The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over a new challenge to Republican drawn maps. You've probably heard elected officials from both parties talk about state maps and if they should or shouldn't redraw them.

But what does 're-districting' actually mean?

Anthony Chergosky, an associate professor of Political Science at UW- La Crosse, describes it as, “the process which someone draws the lines for the legislative districts.” Those lines determine which voters vote for which candidates in the state legislature during elections. It’s something that Chergosky says is a hugely important card for politicians to play for their party.

“With the redrawing of lines comes opportunity. If political parties strategically draw the districts in certain ways, they can add to the number of seats that they control in the legislature,” said Chergosky.

Wisconsin's current maps are Republican made, prompting the state's Democrats to file a lawsuit to the state's Supreme Court in an effort to change them.

“With the current maps, the Republicans are pretty darn close to being able to achieve those veto-proof two thirds majorities in both the state Senate and state Assembly,” Chergosky explained. With new maps, the chance at a veto-proof Republican super-majority in 2024 likely goes out the window.

While there are plenty of buzzwords surrounding state maps like 'partisan gerrymandering' or 'unfair lines,' the case on the Supreme Court's docket this week is partially based on determining 'contiguity,' or the idea that voting districts should all be within the same boundaries.

Determining if the current maps are contiguous is an issue that’s been around even before Republicans drew the most recent maps.

As it stands now, 55 of Wisconsin's 99 state assembly districts in 21 of the 33 state's Senate districts have islands — or chunks of that district outside of the borders of the rest of it.

Democrats want the maps to be redrawn by March of next year. Those freshly drawn districts would also mean that all 132 state lawmakers would be back on the ballot in November.