© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Milwaukee-area fair maps advocates, state lawmakers, debate legislative redistricting bill

Judge Jennifer Dorow, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, Judge Everett Mitchell and Judge Janet Protasiewicz are facing each other on Feb. 21
Steve Gadomski
Stock Adobe
Many critics are attacking a Republican plan to change how Wisconsin legislative districts are drawn.

Many critics are attacking a Republican plan to change how Wisconsin legislative districts are drawn. A State Senate committee hearing in Madison brought out a few dozen people opposed to the measure, and very few supporters.

Currently, state lawmakers can draw new maps after a census. But matters usually wind up in court. For example, the now-liberal controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a progressive group's challenge to the current maps. Republicans drew those documents and the then-conservative controlled state court OK'd the maps last year.

Ed Cook, legal counsel of the Iowa Legislative Services Agency, speaks to the Senate Elections Committee about the so-called Iowa Model, of legislative redistricting.

Democrats say GOP drawn maps in recent decades have unfairly helped Republicans roll up roughly two-thirds legislative majorities in a state that's appears to be closely politically divided.

The GOP bill that the State Assembly passed last month without holding a hearing would not allow lawmakers to change maps submitted by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau. But legislators could vote them down and ask for new proposals until there is bipartisan legislative support.

State Senator Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) testifies at Thursday's hearing. Knodl also chairs the Elections Committee.

Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) is a key author of the Senate version of the legislation. He briefly gave up his gavel as chair of the Elections Committee to take a sit at the public testimony table and tell the panel why he likes the legislation.

"Our state is continually bogged down with litigation—uncertainty regarding legislative redistricting in the courts. This bill eliminates those burdensome costs and dilatory actions," Knodl said.

Knodl says his bill is based on the redistricting process used in the state of Iowa, which has avoided lengthy court fights.

Fair Maps advocate Cheryl Maranto, of Glendale, testifies Thursday.

But almost all members of the public who testified spoke against the measure, saying it needs significant changes. Glendale resident Cheryl Maranto is with the groups North Shore Fair Maps and the Wisconsin Map Assessment Project. She says recent history of Knodl's old Assembly District and current Senate one, shows one problem.

"We agree that competitive maps make for better legislators. So, why did your maps in 2021 surgically gerrymander our districts in the northern suburbs of Milwaukee — AD (Assembly District) 23 and AD 24 to move them from competitive districts to wildly uncompetitive districts, including yours?" Maranto said.

Knodl won a special election in April to move up to the Senate, after serving 15 years in the Assembly.

Maranto says Knodl should change his bill to require that three-quarters of the legislature must OK any new maps.

Other critics of the GOP bill say Wisconsin Congressional districts should also be changed for next year, and that the bill should make it clear that neither process should wait until after the 2030 census.

The State Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on the fight over the current legislative maps on November 21st.

Public hearing audio for this story provided by Wisconsin Eye.

Related Content