The US Supreme Court has long held the concept of “a county” reflecting a community of interest, made up of similar people, according political scientist Mike Wagner. By this standard the Badger State ranks high with how our congressional districts are drawn. “Most states split counties fairly willy-nilly but Wisconsin does much better job keeping counties intact,” says Wagner.
Exceptions, he cites, include Jefferson County which is split between Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Petri. Another example is Whitewater in Baldwin’s 2nd CD but the rest of Walworth County is in Paul Ryan’s 1st district.
Wagner is co-authoring research in a first-of-its-kind national analysis of voting behavior. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor says political awareness can be affected in split areas. The study asserts that voters who had been carved into new districts that mainly covered areas outside their home counties knew far less about their new House candidates than voters who weren’t redistricted.
Congressional districts are allocated according to population, derived from the census, and then put to state legislatures to draw the map.