Wisconsin governor establishes advisory redistricting commission

On January 27, 2020, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) signed an executive order creating an advisory redistricting commission to prepare congressional and state legislative district plans for consideration by the state legislature in the coming redistricting cycle. The legislature, vested with the authority to adopt redistricting plans, will be under no obligation to accept the commission’s recommendations.

It established the following criteria for the commission’s proposed maps:
• “Be free from partisan bias and partisan advantage”
• “Avoid diluting or diminishing minority votes, including through the practices of ‘packing’ or ‘cracking’”
• “Be compact and contiguous”
• “Avoid splitting wards and municipalities”
• “Retain the core population in each district”
• “Maintain traditional communities of interest”
• “Prevent voter disenfranchisement”

The order mandated that commissioners must come from each of the state’s congressional districts and barred elected, public, and political party officials and lobbyists from serving as commissioners. The order specified neither the number of commissioners nor the manner of appointment.

Evers said, “I believe, and Wisconsinites do, too, that people should get to choose their elected officials, not the other way around. So, when the People’s Maps are presented to the Legislature next year, I hope they will receive unanimous, bipartisan support.” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) criticized the order, saying, “He can form whatever kind of fake, phony, partisan process he wants to create, but I have no doubt in the end we will do it the way we have always have, which is to follow the constitution.”

Upon completion of the census in 2020, congressional seats will be reapportioned to the states on the basis of population. Complete data sets will be delivered to the states in early 2021, at which time they will redraw their congressional and state legislative district maps. Wisconsin is neither expected to gain nor lose congressional seats in the next apportionment. The legislature is responsible for drafting and adopting both congressional and state legislative district plans, both of which are subject to gubernatorial veto. Lawmakers are expected to take on redistricting as soon as census data is made available in early 2021.

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