The state Senate has approved changes to Wisconsin’s Legislative and Congressional districts. The package of bills passed Tuesday afternoon on a 19-14 party line vote.
Democrats raised a number of concerns about the Republican-drawn maps, including claims that minority populations will be spread out, they divide up communities and ignore work done by local governments so far on their own maps. The minority party also claim the new maps give the GOP an unfair advantage and are geared at helping them stay in the majority for the next decade.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says the maps comply with Constitutional requirements for the Legislature to reapportion districts after the U.S. Census every ten years. During debate on the floor, Fitzgerald also defended the GOP plan by saying it does create compact and contiguous districts, and also distributes the population based on growth from the last decade.
The last three times the state did redistricting, both parties shared control of the Legislature. As a result, the process ended up being decided by the courts when lawmakers could not reach an agreement. With Republicans in control of the Senate, Assembly and governor’s office this year, they were able to proceed on their own. Democrats are still vowing a court challenge, but it remains unclear how they plan to proceed with that effort.
In the past, the process has also usually stretched in to the fall and Democrats on Tuesday accused Republicans of rushing to push it through ahead of schedule. State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) argued the GOP is trying to wrap up work before recall elections take place next month, which could result in Republicans losing their majority in the Senate.
Fitzgerald noted that other neighboring state have already completed their redistricting work and the timetable fits with the goals the party set at the start of the session back in January.
The Assembly is expected to vote on the redistricting package on Wednesday.