Prof. Justin Levitt's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

Wisconsin

State Summary

Wisconsin’s congressional and state legislative lines are both drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.

On June 3, 2020, petitioners filed a petition (20-03) with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, encouraging the Court to adopt specific rules for the resolution of redistricting disputes.  That petition is currently pending.  (Disclosure: I have opposed the petition.)

In the 2010 cycle, Wisconsin’s legislature passed a congressional plan (SB 149) and state legislative plan (SB 148) on July 20, 2011, which were signed by the Governor on Aug. 9, 2011.  On Mar. 22, 2012, a federal court struck two state Assembly districts under the Voting Rights Act; the court adopted a remedial plan for those two districts on Apr. 11, 2012.

On January 27, 2020, the Governor created the People’s Maps Commission, a nonpartisan redistricting commission comprised of 9 citizens of Wisconsin. The Commission’s purpose is to conduct hearings across the state of Wisconsin and use the input from those who testify to draw and submit maps to the Legislature to vote on in 2021.

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Key Info for 2000 Cycle

Primary governing law

Key Info for 2010 Cycle

Website

Primary governing law

Key Info for 2020 Cycle

Primary governing law

Data

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The Latest Updates

Nov 30, 2020
Today was the deadline for comments on a proposed rule for redistricting procedures before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  There will be a hearing on the proposal Jan. 14, 2021.

Institution

Wisconsin’s congressional and state legislative lines are both drawn by the state legislature, as a regular statute, subject to gubernatorial veto.

Timing

Wisconsin law requires that state legislative lines be drawn in the first legislative session after each Census; the legislative session began on Jan. 12, 2021, and continues through the end of the year.  [Wis. Const. art. IV, § 3]

There is no similar deadline for congressional districts, though candidates must file for both congressional and state legislative primary elections by June 1, 2022. [Wis. Stat. § 8.15(1)]

Wisconsin law prohibits redrawing state legislative districts mid-decade, before the next Census; there is no similar provision pertaining to congressional lines. [Wis. Const. art. IV, § 3State ex rel. Smith v. Zimmerman, 266 Wis. 307 (1954)]

Public input

The legislature has not announced any specific plans for public input this cycle just yet.

Criteria

Like all states, Wisconsin must comply with constitutional equal population requirements and must abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

The Wisconsin constitution further requires that state legislative districts be in as compact form as practicable, and that they be bounded by county, precinct, town, or ward lines where possible. The state constitution also requires that state legislative districts be contiguous.  [Wis. Const. art. IV, §§ 4-5]

Also, state Assembly districts must be nested within state Senate districts, so that each Senate district is made up of three Assembly districts. [Wis. Const. art. IV, § 5Wis. Stat. § 4.001]

2010 cycle

Wisconsin’s legislature passed a congressional plan (SB 149) and state legislative plan (SB 148) on July 20, 2011, which were signed by the Governor on Aug. 9, 2011.

Because state districts must follow municipal ward lines where possible, redistricting usually occurs after ward lines are redrawn.  In 2011, the legislature set an extremely aggressive schedule (though activity had not been scheduled to resume before September, the legislature reconvened in extraordinary session on July 19 and passed both maps by July 20), the legislature also passed legislation asking municipalities to redraw ward lines after state districts had been drawn.

The congressional plan was challenged in federal court, and upheld.  [Baldus v. Brennan, 849 F. Supp. 2d 840 (E.D. Wis. 2012)]

The state legislative plan was also challenged in federal court; on Mar. 22, 2012, the federal court struck two state Assembly districts under the Voting Rights Act, and adopted a remedial plan for those two districts on Apr. 11, 2012.  Further challenges to the state legislative plan were rejected.  [Gill v. Whitford, 138 S. Ct. 1916 (2018), dismissed on remand sub nom. Whitford v. Gill, No. 3:15-cv-00421 (W.D. Wis. July 2, 2019); Baldus v. Brennan, 862 F. Supp. 2d 860 (E.D. Wis. 2012); Baldus v. Brennan, 849 F. Supp. 2d 840 (E.D. Wis. 2012)]

2000 cycle

Wisconsin’s legislature passed a congressional plan (AB 711) that was signed on Mar. 27, 2002.  It did not, however, pass a state legislative plan, and cases were brought in both state and federal court. The state court deferred to the federal court, which issued state legislative plans on May 30, 2002, amended July 11, 2002. It does not appear that the congressional plan was challenged in court after it was enacted.

[Jensen v. Wis. Elections Bd., 639 N.W.2d 537 (Wis. 2002); Baumgart v. Wendelberger, No. 01-C-0121, 2002 WL 34127471 (E.D. Wis. May 30, 2002)]