Brief

People’s Maps Commission releases voting maps

By: - October 1, 2021 5:00 am

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

Gov. Tony Evers’ People’s Maps Commission released draft maps for new Assembly, Senate and U.S. House districts on Thursday evening, in a Zoom presentation showcasing a year of work gathering public input and drafting what commissioners touted as fair, nonpartisan maps created through a transparent, participatory process.

People's Maps Commission meeting on Sept. 30 via Zoom | Screenshot from YouTube
People’s Maps Commission meeting on Sept. 30 via Zoom | Screenshot from YouTube

“The rest of the commission and I have all worked very tirelessly combing through submissions,” said commission chair Dr. Christopher Ford, an emergency physician in Milwaukee. Over the last year, the commission held hearings throughout the state on how redistricting affects people’s lives and launched a process in which community members were invited to draw their own district maps.

The commission presented three draft plans for redrawing Congressional and legislative districts in the state. Ford noted that the maps are not final, and will continue to change based on public input, which people are invited to submit on the commission’s website.

The window for comment on the proposed maps will close Oct. 7

Each state must draw new legislative districts every ten years after the census. The discussion of new maps in Wisconsin has been particularly fraught. The Republican majority in the Legislature, which has benefitted from a heavily gerrymandered map, passed a resolution declaring its intention to retain the old, gerrymandered districts, even as voting rights groups went to federal court with a lawsuit claiming the current maps violate citizens’ voting rights. Republicans have petitioned the conservative majority on the state Supreme Court to draw new maps if the Republican Legislature and Democratic governor cannot agree through the normal process, in which the Legislature draws the new map and the governor must veto or sign it. Voting rights groups, also anticipating a stalemate, have asked a three-judge panel in federal circuit court to agree to draw new maps in a separate case.

Meanwhile, the People’s Maps Commission has continued its work gathering public input and, on Thursday, presented the results.

People's Maps Commission presentation Sept. 30 via YouTube
People’s Maps Commission presentation Sept. 30 via YouTube

Each commissioner gave a short statement before the presentation of the maps. Anne Marie McClellan, a commissioner from Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District who lives in Menominee, said of the process, “We listened to the redistricting experts, we followed the redistricting laws. We listened to the public who told us to create compact districts that avoid splitting counties and municipalities and communities of interest. And we heard criticisms of the current district plans.”

The commission used all of that information to create mapping criteria, she added, “to establish district maps that we feel are free of partisan bias and reflect the public’s concerns that we heard.”

Moon Duchin presents voting and elections data | Screenshot from YouTube
Moon Duchin presents voting and elections data | Screenshot from YouTube

Moon Duchin, a math professor at Tufts University in Massachusetts, who runs the MGGG Redistricting Lab at Tufts’ Tisch College, provided data support to turn the commission’s criteria into concrete, physical maps, which she presented in a PowerPoint presentation Thursday. Duchin showed slides that presented historic voting patterns juxtaposed with election results that highlighted the Republican advantage under the current maps. 

Over 14 elections during the last 10 year cycle Republicans got 49.59% of the vote in the aggregate. An ideally proportional voting map would also “get close to that 49.59 mark,” Duchin said, since “each party’s share of the votes should be about equal to its share of the seats.” 

Yet, the election data in Assembly races that Duchin presented showed that the current voting map typically gave a 10- to 15-seat advantage to Republicans over the last decade.

Crunching the data for the commission’s three Assembly maps, applying them retroactively to the same historical elections, Duchin showed a line graph that demonstrated that the results rose and fell as voting patterns rose and fell, giving them a property she called “responsiveness”

“So instead of having a kind of consistent advantage for either side, they go up and down,” she said. “They switch sides more often. I’m giving you a delegation in the Assembly that would change control from one party to the other over time.”

All of the draft maps lean slightly towards Republicans, Duchin said, explaining that this is due to the political geography of the state. “Districts tend to confer a geographic advantage to Republicans, who at this time in U.S. history are more spread out across rural areas while Democrats are a bit more concentrated.”

Data and draft maps are all available on the People’s Map Commission website. Thursdays’ presentation is available on YouTube.

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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.

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