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Do we have Fair Maps yet? What’s happening with those maps?

By Penny Bernard Schaber

No, we do not have Fair Maps. There has been and will be a lot happening.

On November 8th and 11th the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly passed SB 621 and SB 622. These bills are the GOP-proposed legislative and congressional maps. These maps are based on the current highly gerrymandered maps of 2011, continuing the highly partisan majority in both the Senate and the Assembly.

During discussion of the bills, the Majority Party brought up the maps from the People’s Maps Commission (PMC). They did this knowing there was disagreement within the Minority Party on the PMC maps and that the PMC maps would not be passed by either the State Senate or Assembly.

On November 18th Governor Evers vetoed both bills, forcing the redistricting process into the court system. This does not end the process. There are two possible steps the Majority Party could take now:

  1. Override the Governor’s Veto. They do not have a supermajority in the State Senate and would need at least one Minority Party vote. It is not clear if they will try and override the veto or not.
  2. The Majority Party could pass a Joint Resolution that includes the new GOP maps. The last time this was tried the Wisconsin Supreme Court said that it was unconstitutional.

The next part of the process will be fast moving and complex; because partisan election processes start in April and May of 2022. District lines will need approval by then so candidates and elected officials for State Legislature know which district they will campaign in.

The new maps will likely be decided in the Court System! But… Which Court System?

The Wisconsin Supreme Court took up the GOP Maps and issued a decision on November 30th. They decided to use the same maps that Governor Evers vetoed, stating in their decision that the “least change” basis for the maps was valid. This decision approves maps that are even more gerrymandered than the current maps.

The Federal Court system historically has been involved in the process, being the entity that drew the maps in 3 of the last 4 redistricting processes. The Federal Level of the court system is better positioned to gather testimony, hear the case and make a decision than the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Federal Court System has set a timeline for briefings in late January and early February. This process would use a three Judge panel in their deliberations.

At the time of this writing, it looks like both Court processes may go forward — the Wisconsin Supreme Court deciding to act in late November and early December and the Federal Court acting in late January and early February. We do not know at this time which of the multiple cases that are active will be heard or where or how they will be combined for efficiency and timeliness.

We do not have Fair Maps yet! The pressure is on the Majority Party and the Wisconsin Supreme Court to do the right thing. The best thing we can do is continue to contact our legislators and ask them to uphold the Governor’s veto, write Letters to the Editor, ask your legislator for a meeting or attend their office hours and tell them you want Fair Maps.

There are Fair Maps bills introduced but stuck in committee. Ask for them (SB 389 and AB 395) to get a public hearing because maps that are fair will help stop gridlock and help our government to work.

Keep up the good work.