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What is gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing political boundaries to give the party in control an advantage over the opposing party. Gerrymandered boundaries ensure that the majority party wins more districts than the minority party. The Washington Post: This is the best explanation of gerrymandering

What is the process for drawing legislative districts in Wisconsin?

Both congressional and state Assembly and Senate boundaries are drawn by the Wisconsin State Legislature. The maps produced by the Legislature are subject to veto by the governor.

When is the next redistricting?

New legislative maps are drawn after every U.S. Census, which take place every 10 years. The next census will take place in 2020, and the next redistricting will occur in 2021.

What is the problem with partisan gerrymandering?

The problem is that votes cast don’t translate into seats won. Rigged maps foil democracy.

For example, in 2012, the first election after Wisconsin Republicans drew new maps in 2011, Democrats won a majority of votes statewide, but the GOP took the majority of seats in the Assembly: 60 seats for Republicans; 39 for Democrats.

In 2014, votes cast and seats won were similarly disproportionate.

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Of the 39 Assembly districts that Democrats won in 2012, Democrats had been so packed into them that Republicans did not even field candidates in 21 districts. In two others, Democrats won at least 94 percent of the vote.

Both political parties rig election maps. In Illinois, Democrats drew maps that favor Democrats.

Why is partisan gerrymandering unfair?

  • The map gives one party a disproportionate advantage over the other party.

  • Votes of the minority party in many districts don’t count.

  • The end result is unrepresentative of the electorate as a whole.

How is it done?

Using sophisticated computer modeling, the majority party uses two techniques:

Packing crams as many voters of the opposing party as possible into a small number of districts. This means there are few voters of the opposing party in the remaining districts, so they cannot compete to win in a majority of districts. Votes in the majority of the districts are wasted.

Cracking spreads the opposing party’s voters into districts where they have no chance of winning. Thus their votes are also wasted.

What is the solution to partisan gerrymandering?

The solution is a nonpartisan process for drawing legislative maps. Iowa and a handful of other states have adopted nonpartisan redistricting, ensuring that the majority party doesn’t control legislative boundaries.

What about the court case challenging Wisconsin’s redistricting?

The U.S. Supreme Court sent Gill v. Whitford back to the lower court on a procedural issue in June 2018, and an amended complaint was filed in September 2018. Whatever the Supreme Court may eventually rule, its decision will not solve the problem of how Wisconsin draws its districts. This is because the Wisconsin constitution gives the authority to draw maps to the Legislature. The remedy for gerrymandering is the adoption by the Legislature of an independent, nonpartisan process to draw districts, as Iowa and other states have.

What can we do about it?

Spread the word! The more people who understand how unfair partisan gerrymandering is, the more likely it is that elected officials will listen and take steps to create a nonpartisan process. In Wisconsin, the Assembly and Senate must approve bills that create a nonpartisan process.

If you want to do more, visit the Act section of our website.

Want to try your hand at drawing legislative maps?

Check out this game.

Other takes on gerrymandering

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