MADISON, Wis. — The redistricting battle that will affect elections in Wisconsin over the next 10 years took center stage in Madison on Thursday.
A public hearing lasted more than nine hours. It marked the first-time people could weigh in on the Republican-controlled legislature's proposal on changing district lines.
The Republican's redistricting proposal largely keeps in place the maps that were established by Republican lawmakers 10 years ago.
“At certain times, yes, partisanship was considered in our map-making, but it was not the driving criteria,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. "The driving criteria are population, deviations from the norm, ensuring we have compact and contiguous districts.”
“To say that actually considering our maps is a horrible thing, is something I don’t understand at all,” said Senator Devin LeMahieu. “We put a lot into this, and everything we've done followed the constitution.”
Democrats say the Republican proposal gives the GOP an unfair advantage and hurts under-served populations.
“What I'm suggesting, is you could pass a fair map or a fairer map, that would give Democrats a fighting chance if the people of Wisconsin actually supported them, and reject the point of view Republicans put forward,” said Sachin Chheda, the Director of Wisconsin Fair Elections Project.
“Why does the Wisconsin GOP feel the need to have this advantage? Are they so scared to lose? We see what's going on and we're fed up,” said Robert Haskins, a Milwaukee resident.
“This is about not having a decade in which people of color in particular lose their voice in the political process,” said Senator Lena Taylor.
Democrats point to the makeup of the state legislature today as proof of a problem.
In Wisconsin, statewide elections are typically near a 50-50 split. But the state Senate has 21 Republicans to 12 Democrats, and the Assembly has 61 Republicans to 38 Democrats.
“Just because somebody wins statewide, you can't simply say they should be winning at every other level,” Vos said. “It doesn't work that way.”
Governor Tony Evers created the People's Maps Commission to produce a redistricting alternative, which includes some bigger changes to some of the districts.
The Republican-controlled legislature is expected to approve its version of the maps in the next few weeks. Governor Evers says he'll veto them, which will ultimately leave it to the courts to decide how exactly to draw district lines.