INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: See how Wisconsin Republicans redrew the 33 state Senate districts to their advantage

Click the specific district to see the before and after comparison. Graphics by Karissa Schumacker.

Wisconsin is one of the most competitive swing states in the country — in races politicians can’t influence by drawing the districts. In the last couple years, Democrats have won every statewide election race, including U.S. president, governor, U.S. senator and attorney general.

But many experts also call Wisconsin one of the most gerrymandered.

Republicans have easily held the state legislature for nearly all of the last decade. And they are just one seat away from a supermajority in the state Senate.

After the GOP won full control of state government in 2010, the hyper-efficient gerrymandering they conducted in 2011 gave the party a nearly unbreakable hold on a majority of the races politicians can tip in their favor with redistricting: the state legislature and U.S. congressional seats. Even when Republicans have lost the majority of the total vote in races for the state legislature, as they did several times last decade, they still won a majority of seats.

In the previous decade, Wisconsin’s political districts had been drawn by the federal courts, leading to more competitive districts, as control of the state legislature changed hands between both parties.

The Badger Project’s junior investigator Karissa Schumacker has put together a side-by-side comparison of how the 33 state Senate districts changed in the 2011 redistricting process to show how Republicans gave themselves a partisan advantage. Politicians from both parties do this across the country, but in Wisconsin, Republicans have been the ones benefitting from gerrymandering. And let’s not forget, Wisconsin Democrats had full control of state government in 2009, and despite a push from inside and outside the party to enact a nonpartisan redistricting commission, similar to the one in Iowa, they declined to do so.

This year, following the 2020 Census, the district maps must be redrawn again. But without the complete control of state government they had in 2011, Republicans face an almost certain veto of their maps by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, a unique wrinkle of Wisconsin politics. This will send the final decision on redistricting to the courts. But will it end up in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority, or the federal court, whose judges are appointed rather than elected? And what will that court decide? We will find out soon.

-Peter Cameron, Managing Editor

3 replies »

  1. What would be fair would be if the seats that both parties get would mirror the popular vote. in 2012, Dems got 54% of the popular vote but only 34 seats out of 99.
    In fairness, they should have gotten 54% of the 99 seats= 53.6 seats.
    But by packing and cracking we got a really raw deal and our representatives really do not represent us.

  2. I see great advantages to the “last 5” as presently there are many people who do not consider themselves either Republicans or Democrats. Fair Vote States that Independents represent a group that is larger than either Republican or Democrats.
    Therefore, by the laws of the State, which favor only a 2 party system, we know that we are offering candidates one R, the other D which do not have the approval of the biggest number of people, namely Independents. That is seriously wrongheaded in an alleged Democracy!
    By allowing other Parties to get elected in an unrigged political system, we would achieve a number of goals:
    1/ get more ideas of value in the political sphere..
    2/ end the forced dichotomy of voters. [The system is unfair to them.]
    3/ put an end to the tug of war and the gridlock it causes.
    4/ increase political participation.
    5/ lower the hysterics and histrionics we now see in our politics: When there are more than 2 or 3 ideas, the discussions become more nuanced: You want to convince several people to agree with you, not just one.
    6/ by having other parties participating in elections, there will be a “king maker” of sorts, which will further calm people down and encourage more meaningful discussions.
    Ranked choice voting is also a good idea as the system will find the “sweet spot candidate”, the one that most people can rally behind. This, in turn would make for a more stable way to govern. I only fear that because it is harder to explain, there may be more people who will at first look at it with suspicion, but it is a good system.

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