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Stories about Wisconsin

The latest redistricting news from New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin

In this week’s Redistricting Review, we cover news out of New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

New Jersey: On July 20,New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner asked Democrats and Republicans to reconvene and pick a consensus candidate for the 13th member of the state’s congressional redistricting commission.

According to state law, the majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the state legislature and the chair of the state’s two major political parties appoint the first 12 members of the congressional redistricting commission. The 12 commissioners then appoint the last commission member. If they cannot agree on an appointment, the commissioners must submit two names to the New Jersey Supreme Court and the court must then appoint the final commissioner.

Last week, when the commissioners could not reach a consensus by their July 15th deadline, they submitted former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr., and former Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus to the court. According to the New Jersey Globe, “This is the first time the two parties haven’t agreed on a 13th member for congressional redistricting. The Supreme Court option wasn’t involved in 1991, 2001 and 2011.”

Chief Justice Rabner gave the commissioners until July 30th to respond with a consensus candidate. If they do not, the New Jersey Supreme Court will pick a tiebreaker candidate by August 10th.

New Mexico: The New Mexico Redistricting Committee’s new website launched last week. The website includes information on how to participate in committee meetings and a portal for submitting public comments or maps. It can be accessed here.

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Supreme Court temporarily halted a lower court ruling blocking Republican legislators from hiring private attorneys with taxpayer funds. On July 15, the court unanimously agreed to take up the case, and in a 4-3 decision ordered that Republican lawmakers be allowed to hire private attorneys pending their decision.

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Republican William Penterman wins Wisconsin Assembly special election

William Penterman (R) was elected to District 37 of the Wisconsin State Assembly in a special election held on July 13. Penterman earned 54.1% of the vote, defeating Democrat Pete Adams and independent candidate Stephen Ratzlaff Jr. Once the results are certified, Penterman will be sworn in for a term that ends in January 2023.

The seat became vacant on April 23 after John Jagler (R) was sworn into the Wisconsin State Senate. He won a special election for state Senate District 13 on April 6. Jagler had represented District 37 since 2013. He won re-election in 2020 with 56% of the vote.

Republicans will have a 61-38 majority in the Wisconsin Assembly after Penterman is sworn in. Wisconsin has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of July, 46 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 18 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Wisconsin held 19 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court affirms agency authority to regulate state water resources

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on July 8 issued decisions in two environmental cases that had pitted the state legislature against the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in a disagreement over which government entity has the authority to regulate water pollution and irrigation practices. In both cases, the court held 4-2 that the DNR is authorized to restrict permits in order to protect the state’s water resources.

The pair of cases, both initiated by Clean Wisconsin Inc. and Pleasant Lake Management District, centered on Wisconsin Act 21—a 2011 law that limits state agency authority by prohibiting state agencies from taking actions not specifically authorized by the state legislature.

The first case concerned an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) order that the DNR limit the size of a dairy herd causing nearby groundwater contamination. The DNR under then-Governor Scott Walker (R) did not enforce the ALJ’s directive, arguing that Act 21 prohibited the agency from carrying out the order.

A Dane County Circuit Court judge in 2016 affirmed the DNR’s authority to limit the size of the dairy herd to address water pollution. The DNR appealed the decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The current DNR under Governor Tony Evers (D) changed its position and had since claimed regulatory authority in the case.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the circuit court’s decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Jill Karofsky stated, “we conclude that an agency may rely upon a grant of authority that is explicit but broad when undertaking agency action, and such an explicit but broad grant of authority complies with [Act 21].”

In the second case, challengers sued the DNR seeking stricter enforcement of regulations regarding large-scale water withdrawals for irrigation. Challengers claimed that the agency failed to consider the cumulative negative impact on water levels in nearby lakes and streams when it issued permits for nine high-capacity wells. As in the previous case, the DNR argued that Act 21 prevented the agency from considering the cumulative impact of the new wells. 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court again affirmed the circuit court’s decision in the case, holding that the DNR erroneously claimed that it lacked regulatory authority. Writing for the majority, Justice Rebecca Dallet stated, “The DNR’s authority to consider the environmental effects of proposed high capacity wells, while broad, is nevertheless explicitly permitted by statute.”

Chief Justice Annette Ziegler joined Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky in both majority opinions. Justice Brian Hagedorn did not participate in the case.

Justices Rebecca Bradley and Patience Roggensack dissented, arguing in part: “Elevating its environmental policy preferences over the legislature’s prerogative to reclaim its constitutional authority, the majority distorts the plain language of [Act 21] to achieve its own ends.” 

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Wisconsin county supervisor loses recall election

A recall election seeking to remove Thomas Schaefer from his position as the District 10 representative on the Dodge County Board of Supervisors in Wisconsin was held on July 13. Schaefer was defeated by Daniel Siegmann, who had filed the petition against him. Siegmann received 538 votes (77.2%) to Schaefer’s 159, according to unofficial results.

Prior to the election, Siegmann told the Daily Citizen, “I found that Dodge County citizen’s best interests regarding our liberty and especially our money, to a large extent, have been and continue to be neglected by many supervisors. I saw that we as citizens of Dodge County needed to become more closely involved with its system of government to help bring back proper emphasis to protect individual liberty and practice common sense fiscal responsibility.”

In response to the recall, Schaefer said, “My actions as a county supervisor as listed in the recall petition do not rise to the level of a recall. If the resident was so dissatisfied with my performance, he could run in April 2022 as my, and all 33 supervisors’ terms, are up at that time. I have, and always will, represent the district, not one individual or group.”

Schaefer ran unopposed in the last regular election for his seat on April 7, 2020. He received 674 votes, and there were 35 write-in votes.

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Additional reading:

Recall campaigns in Wisconsin

Political recall efforts, 2021

County commission recalls



Dane County holds special election July 13

The special election for Dane County Board of Supervisors District 19 in Wisconsin is on July 13, 2021. A primary was scheduled for June 15, but it was not needed. The filing deadline to run passed on May 21. Two candidates, Kristen Morris and Timothy Rockwell, are on the ballot.

The special election became necessary when Teran Peterson resigned from the board on April 30 after moving out of the district.

The District 19 race is the third special election to the Dane County Board of Supervisors since the board’s last regular election on April 7, 2020. A fourth special election to the board will be held for District 20 on Aug. 10. All 37 board of supervisor seats will be up for regular election in April 2022.

Dane County had a population of 516,284 in 2014, according to the United States Census Bureau. 

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Redistricting review: Virginia House of Delegates candidate sues over 2021 elections using existing maps (and other news)

Virginia: On June 28, Paul Goldman, a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, filed suit against Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the Virginia State Board of Elections (among other state officials), asking that a U.S. District Court declare the Nov. 3, 2021, elections for the House of Delegates invalid, limit the terms of delegates elected in 2021 to one year, and order new elections to take place in 2022. Because members of the House of Delegates serve two-year terms, a court order to this effect would result in elections in three consecutive years: 2021, 2022, and 2023.

The Constitution of Virginia requires that elections for the House of Delegates take place every two years on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Regularly scheduled elections occur in odd-numbered years. Because of the delayed release of U.S. Census redistricting data, redistricting authorities in Virginia were unable to draft new legislative district maps for this year’s elections. Consequently, existing maps will remain in force. Goldman argues that conducting the 2021 elections under the existing maps violates both the state and federal constitutions. Citing Cosner v. Dalton, a 1981 decision in which a federal court ordered the terms of delegates elected in 1981 under invalid maps be limited to one year, Goldman is asking that the court limit the terms of delegates elected in 2021 to one year and schedule elections under new maps in 2022.

In his complaint, Goldman said, “According to Cosner, plaintiff’s protected core political rights should allow him to run for the House of Delegates in 2022, not being forced to wait until 2023 due to the failure of the appropriate state authorities to adhere to the requirements of the federal constitution.”

Del. Marcus Simon (D), who serves on the Virginia Redistricting Committee, said the Cosner precedent does not necessarily apply to this situation: “In the 1980s, we deprived people of their civil rights, we had racially improper districts. Given the circumstances for why we don’t have districts today, I don’t know that the same urgency would apply.”

Utah: On June 30, the Utah State Legislature announced an anticipated timeline for congressional and state legislative redistricting. Under that timeline, the Legislative Redistricting Committee will hold public hearings in September and October and adopt final maps before Thanksgiving.

Wisconsin: On June 30, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s ruling that barred them from hiring private attorneys in anticipation of challenges to the redistricting process. The court set a July 8 deadline for briefs from all parties involved in the matter.

On April 29, Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke ruled against Vos and LeMahieu and in favor of the plaintiffs, four Madison, Wisc., residents who argued that state law prohibits legislative leaders from hiring attorneys from outside the Wisconsin Department of Justice before a lawsuit has been filed. Vos and LeMahieu appealed that decision to a state appellate court, which declined to stay Ehlke’s original order. This prompted the present appeal pending before the state supreme court.

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Sen. Ron Johnson temporarily suspended from YouTube for violating platform’s medical misinformation policy

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was suspended from YouTube for seven days on June 11, 2021, for promoting hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 during a virtual event hosted by the Milwaukee Press Club.

A YouTube spokesperson said in a statement, “We removed the video in accordance with our COVID-19 medical misinformation policies, which don’t allow content that encourages people to use Hydroxychloroquine or Ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus.”

Johnson responded: “Big Tech and mainstream media believe they are smarter than medical doctors who have devoted their lives to science and use their skills to save lives. They have decided there is only one medical viewpoint allowed and it is the viewpoint dictated by government agencies.”

Ballotpedia has tracked five federal and state officials suspended or banned from social media platforms while in office since 2019.



Filing deadline is June 18 for Dane County Board of Supervisors special election

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Dane County Board of Supervisors District 20 in Wisconsin have until June 18 to file. The general election is scheduled for Aug. 10. If more than three candidates file to run, a nonpartisan primary election will be held on July 13. 

The special election was called after Supervisor Julie Schwellenbach passed away on May 19. Schwellenbach served from 2018 to 2021.

Dane County had an estimated population of 546,695 in 2019, according to the United States Census Bureau.

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Special election primary to be held in Wisconsin Assembly district

A special election primary is being held on June 15 for District 37 of the Wisconsin State Assembly. Cathy Houchin, Steve Kauffeld, Nick Krueger, Jennifer Meinhardt, William Penterman, Nathan Pollnow, Jenifer Quimby, and Spencer Zimmerman are running in the Republican primary. Pete Adams is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Stephen Ratzlaff Jr. is running as an independent candidate. The general election will take place on July 13, and the winner of the special election will serve until January 2023.

The seat became vacant on April 23 after John Jagler (R) was sworn into the Wisconsin State Senate. He won a special election for state Senate District 13 on April 6. Jagler had represented District 37 since 2013. He won re-election in 2020 with 56% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 60-38 majority in the Wisconsin Assembly with one vacancy. Wisconsin has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of June, 39 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 17 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Wisconsin held 19 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

Additional reading:



Two candidates file to run in special election for Dane County Board of Supervisors seat

Two candidates have filed to run in the July 13 special election for District 19 on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. The filing deadline for the special election was May 21. A primary election was scheduled for June 15 but is not needed as only two candidates filed.

Kristen M. Morris and Timothy Rockwell are running in the special election. The special election became necessary after Teran Peterson resigned from the board on April 30. She had represented the district since April 2020.

Dane County in Wisconsin had a population of 531,273 in 2013, according to the United States Census Bureau. Ballotpedia is covering municipal elections in 22 counties and 71 cities, including 43 mayoral elections, in 2021.

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