Every ten years, the legislature tackles legislative redistricting — redrawing legislative lines to account for changes in the state’s population. The process is often partisan and contentious, and occasionally lands in the courts.
The Assembly voted yesterday along largely party lines — just one Republican joined all the Democrats and lone Independent — to approve newly-drawn districts. The Senate voted in support of the plan on Tuesday. The bill now goes to Governor Scott Walker for his signature.
Many pundits believe that Republicans have fast-tracked the proposal in order to make some competitive districts more solidly Republican. The new maps will not be in place for the current recall elections, but passing them now with a Republican majority in both houses ensures that Democrats cannot alter or delay the plans.
The newly-drawn maps also leave many legislators outside of their current districts. Two Democrats running against Republicans in August recall elections would also reside outside of the district should they win. Nancy Nusbaum of DePere would be just three blocks outside the district she’s resided in for 26 years. In Madison, Democrat Chris Taylor beat several opponents in a crowded primary last week to fill the vacant 48th Assembly District seat (no Republican is running in the August 9 election). If the maps are approved, she’ll either have to give up the seat or move, since she would no longer live in the district.
Current law states that the Legislature may not redraw legislative maps until local governments have had a chance to redraw county and municipal districts. Many municipalities have not yet completed their work, but the Assembly passed a bill yesterday that would allow them to create new maps before local governments finish theirs. This proposal will also go to Governor Walker for his approval.
Anticipating gerrymandering, fifteen Wisconsin citizens filed a federal lawsuit last month in opposition to the yet to be made public plan. Republicans have already authorized the spending of $350,000 of taxpayer money for legal advice as the maps were drawn.