A series of virtual public hearings across Wisconsin kicked off Thursday night to begin the process of redrawing the state's political boundaries for the next decade.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers established the People’s Maps Commission earlier this year. The bipartisan group consists of one representative from each of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts. Thursday night’s meeting focused on the 8th district, which covers northeastern Wisconsin.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified at the hearing. He’s now chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Holder says there is a more equitable way to draw Wisconsin’s political maps and criticized the current method of tasking the party in control of the state Legislature with the job. In 2011, it fell to the GOP.
“I think that, unfortunately, the people of Wisconsin have suffered under some of the worst gerrymandering in the country. And while gerrymandering has been around since the earliest day of our country, it is now worse than ever. According to a study from Princeton University, the gerrymandering that was done in 2011 was the most egregious in at least the last half century,” Holder says.
Gerrymandering is the practice of manipulating electoral boundaries so they favor one political party. The current maps were challenged, but ultimately the courts did not order Wisconsin to redraw them. Holder commended Evers with forming the nonpartisan citizen’s commission to draw the next set of boundaries.
“We know that an independent process works. It reduces partisanship. It increases competitiveness, and that is all I’m looking for in the redistricting process, a fair process and a fair outcome,” Holder says.
Public hearings will continue through the fall and winter. The commission will use the information gathered to prepare new maps and submit them to the state Legislature for the final say.
It’s not clear whether a Republican-led Legislature would follow the commission’s recommendations. Earlier this year, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said of Evers’ redistricting commission, “he can form whatever kind of fake, phony, partisan process he wants to create, but I have no doubt, in the end, we will do it the way we always have, which is to follow the Constitution.”