New Legislative and Congressional district maps for Wisconsin are on their way to Governor Walker’s desk, following final approval in the Assembly Wednesday night. Democrats echoed many of the concerns raised about the Republican-drawn maps when the Senate approved the bills earlier this week, arguing they are designed to ensure the GOP maintains control of the Legislature for the next decade.
State Representative Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) says the bills allow the majority to pick its constituents and to build districts that will favor candidates of one party. Kessler described the process of drawing the maps, which was done by a Republican-hired law firm that Democrats did not have access to, as “viciously partisan.”
The package also changes the process for challenging new maps and for drawing district lines, allowing the Legislature to finish its work before local governments. State Representative Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) says that sends a message to the many communities that the GOP does not respect their part in the process. Doyle says the changes could end up costing local governments millions of dollars if they have to throw out ward maps that they have been working on for the past several months.
The maps were first introduced on July 8th. Republican leaders have argued they were done fairly and will stand up to any legal challenges. However, no members of the majority party stood up to speak in favor of the plan during Wednesday night’s floor debate.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) called that silence “deafening” and a sign that the GOP has no real defense for the proposal.
The redistricting process in the state over the last three decades has been decided in the courts, largely because of split party control at the Capitol that made it nearly impossible for lawmakers to reach an agreement. This time around Republicans are in charge of both houses and the governor’s office, allowing them to act independently.
The plan now heads to the Governor, who has not indicated whether he will sign-off on the bills. Court challenges to the maps are also expected.