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.