What's Next2021 is a big year for redistricting in Wisconsin.
The People’s Maps Commission
Over the last several years, 54 Wisconsin counties representing almost 80 percent of the people of Wisconsin have passed resolutions or referenda supporting nonpartisan redistricting in Wisconsin. But due to gerrymandering, we can’t enact the chance we collectively seek.
In Governor Tony Evers’ 2020 State of the State Address, he created a nonpartisan redistricting commission, comprised of the people of our state—not elected officials, not lobbyists, and not political party officials—who will draw The People’s Maps.
These folks will hear directly from voters across our state, from every congressional district, and will work together to draw fair, impartial maps for the Legislature to take up this year.
SPRING 2021: Vote YES! | Fair Maps Referenda on the April 6, 2021 Ballot
Counties: Ashland, Polk, and Richland | Municipalities: City of Appleton (Outagamie County)
Redistricting Rule Petition at the Wisconsin Supreme Court
In June, Scott Jensen and the WI Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) filed a “rulemaking” petition with the State Supreme Court, asking the Court to adopt a special set of rules for any redistricting litigation. The proposed rules would nearly guarantee that any dispute about new maps goes straight to the State Supreme Court, instead of starting in a state trial court or being determined in federal court (where redistricting litigation has been heard in the past). The proposed rule also lays out a poorly-drafted set of procedures for the Court to use when hearing redistricting lawsuits. This process would not ensure full, fair consideration of maps or legal challenges. The morning after the November 3 election, the Court set a rushed deadline for public comments: November 30. Nearly 2,000 comments opposing this rule petition were submitted by the deadline.
The Supreme Court held a public hearing on Thursday, January 14th to hear from those wishing to speak. Overall, the justices were engaged, asking questions of several citizens, lawyers and professors testifying. Questions included how the Court should manage redistricting litigation, if commenters preferred federal courts deal with this issue, and what the Court should do instead of adopting the proposal. Several justices, including Chief Justice Roggensack, appeared skeptical about adopting a redistricting-specific rule.
The now-Chief Justice also opposed adopting a special procedure for redistricting litigation the last time the Court reviewed a proposal on the topic (around 2008). At the January 14th hearing, she reiterated concerns about the Court getting involved in the fight too early, before the Legislature and Governor have fully attempted to agree on new maps: “This rule makes the court proactive. That’s just not how we operate.”
There is no set timeline for the Court to decide to adopt or reject the proposed rule change. The Court could decide to adopt the rule as proposed, adopt an amended version, ask for more input, or simply decline to make any changes. Even if the Court does not adopt this rule, it is still possible redistricting litigants will file in the State Supreme Court, or end up there eventually. In the meantime, Wisconsin is waiting for census data to begin drawing new maps.