Republican Legislators Release Redistricting Proposals

On October 20, Republican leaders in the Wisconsin Legislature announced their proposals for new state legislative and congressional districts. Redistricting, a process of redrawing legislative district lines to account for population changes, takes place by law every 10 years following the U.S. Census. The Republican redistricting proposals have been introduced as two bills, Senate Bills 621 and 622, both authored by Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).

The proposed new maps largely retain district boundaries as they are now, with adjustments made based on where population levels have grown or declined. An analysis conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) found that the proposed Assembly map would retain 84.2 of existing districts on average, while the new Senate map would retain an average of 92.2 percent of existing seats. Similarly, LRB found that the proposed congressional maps would retain about 93.5 percent of the existing districts.

As we noted here, the Legislature recently passed a joint resolution asserting that new legislative districts should “retain as much as possible the core of existing districts, thus maintaining existing communities of interest, and promoting the equal opportunity to vote by minimizing disenfranchisement due to staggered Senate terms.”

In adjusting current district lines, the Republican plan would pair up three sets of incumbent state representatives into the same districts:

  • Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) and Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin)
  • Ken Skowronski (R-Franklin) and Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego)
  • Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls) and Warren Petryk (R-Washington)

The proposed legislative maps would maintain the existence of six Assembly districts where a majority of voters are black, and two where a majority of voters are Hispanic. They would also maintain two Senate districts where a majority of voters are black and create a new district with a majority of Hispanic voters.

As the Legislature considers these proposals over the coming months, it is likely that they will ultimately pass on a party-line basis. Shortly after the Republican proposal was released, Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) criticized it as “gerrymandering 2.0,” saying, “what Republicans have unveiled is simply a minor retooling” of already-flawed maps. The following day, Governor Tony Evers (D) issued a press release echoing those criticisms and promising to veto SB 621 and 622, telling Republican legislators to “go back to the drawing board.”

Meanwhile, the People’s Maps Commission, appointed by Gov. Evers to draft alternative redistricting proposals, is expected to release its final proposed maps in early November. The commission has released several iterations of its proposals and is adjusting them based on feedback from the public. Gov. Evers has repeatedly called on the Legislature to use the commission’s maps, but Republican legislative leaders have already indicated they will not consider the proposals.

Several state and federal lawsuits have already been filed concerning various aspects of the redistricting process in Wisconsin. If Gov. Evers vetoes the maps sent to him by the Legislature, the issue will ultimately be resolved in court.

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