A new chapter in Wisconsin politics: Ending gerrymandering

The gerrymandered districts had long been a point of contention, with numerous legal experts deeming Wisconsin one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation.

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In a pivotal moment for Wisconsin’s political landscape, Governor Tony Evers signed into law new legislative maps, marking a significant stride towards competitive elections in the state. This legislative action concludes a protracted legal battle ignited by a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling in late 2023, which invalidated the prior maps as unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court’s decision was catalyzed by a notable shift in its ideological composition, following the election of liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz. The court, in a close 4-3 decision, identified that the previous maps, crafted by Republican legislators, contravened the state’s constitutional mandate for contiguous districts, highlighting the presence of several disjointed “islands” in the legislative landscape.

In response to the ruling, the court directed various stakeholders, including the state legislature and Governor Evers, to propose alternative maps for its consideration. The directive also noted that the court would refrain from selecting new maps should the legislature and the Governor reach a consensus on a suitable replacement.

Amid concerns that the court might implement a map less favorable to their interests, the Republican-controlled state legislature, albeit reluctantly, endorsed Governor Evers’ proposed maps. This decision was underscored by Republican state Senator Van Wanggaard’s metaphorical expression of choosing the lesser of several undesirable outcomes, likening it to opting for a stab wound over more fatal alternatives to “live to fight another day.”

Despite the legislature’s acquiescence, the majority of Democratic legislators opposed the new maps, apprehensive of a potential Republican-led legal challenge that could find favor in the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. At the signing ceremony, Governor Evers underscored the importance of enacting these maps to honor the commitments he made to the electorate, emphasizing his dedication to doing “the right thing,” despite internal party dissent.

The gerrymandered districts, redrawn by Republicans in 2011 and again after the 2020 census, had long been a point of contention, with numerous legal experts deeming Wisconsin one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation. The 2011 maps particularly solidified Republican dominance in the state Senate, markedly widening the partisan gap. The new maps introduced by Governor Evers aim to rectify this imbalance by adding several Democratic-leaning districts and enhancing the overall competitiveness of the electoral landscape.

The political response to the new maps has been mixed. While most Democrats in the legislature voiced concerns over the maps’ legitimacy and the Republicans’ intentions, good governance groups lauded the development as a triumph for equitable representation. Chris Walloch, executive director of A Better Wisconsin Together, hailed the new maps as a more accurate reflection of Wisconsin’s diverse communities, offering a renewed opportunity for competitive elections and a genuinely representative government.

Looking ahead, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) views the new maps as a strategic advantage for the upcoming 2024 legislative elections, expressing a renewed commitment to altering the state’s political dynamics in favor of more balanced representation.

“We deserve a legislature that represents us as constituents and prioritizes our best interests,” Walloch remarked.

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