Experts Say Wisconsin’s Republican-Drawn Maps Are “Partisan Gerrymanders”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A pair of redistricting experts hired by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to evaluate a number of proposed legislative maps in the Badger State determined that the Republican-drawn maps are “partisan gerrymanders.”

It’s the latest update in the ongoing battle over Wisconsin’s new legislative maps, which were originally drawn by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature, but were ruled as unconstitutional by the state’s Supreme Court in December of last year. 

University of California, Irvine political science professor Bernard Grofman and Carnegie Mellon University professor Jonathan Cervas were appointed as consultants by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to evaluate six plans for new legislative maps in consideration in Wisconsin. Their report, which was turned into the court yesterday, found that the map drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature and a map drawn by the conservative group the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty — referred to as the Johnson plan — were “partisan gerrymanders” that shouldn’t be considered. 

“Of the remaining plans, the Johnson plan appears to have a substantial number of fails of the ‘bounded by’ constitutional criteria,” Grofman and Carvas wrote in their report. “We also note that both the Legislature’s plan and the Johnson plan, from a social science perspective, are partisan gerrymanders.’

In December, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the state’s Republican-drawn legislative maps, ruling that they violated the state constitution’s new contiguity requirements and ordering new maps to be drawn for the 2024 election. Last week, the Republican majority in the Legislature quickly jammed through new maps that altered prior maps drawn by Gov. Tony Evers (D), in order to protect GOP incumbents. Evers vetoed them, writing in a statement that they were “designed to undemocratically serve the politicians who draft them” and that they failed “to comply with basic constitutional requirements for legislative districts.” 

In a statement regarding the expert report, Evers said that “the days of Wisconsinites living under some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country are numbered. While this is just one step in this process, today is an important day for the people of Wisconsin who deserve maps that are fair, responsive, and reflect the will of the people.”

Grofman and Carvas approved of Evers’ maps in their report, along with three other proposals — one from Democratic lawmakers, one from professors from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and one proposed by the petitioners who sued over the original GOP-drawn maps — but didn’t recommend any specific one, writing that “The Court can instruct us to take one or more of the plans and improve it with respect to one or more of the court-mandated criteria.”

The Wisconsin Elections Commission said that new maps must be in place by March 15, according to Wisconsin Watch.

Read the report here. 

Learn more about the challenge against Wisconsin’s gerrymandered maps here.