Redistricting in Wisconsin

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Note: Redistricting takes place every 10 years after completion of the United States Census. The information here pertains to the 2010 redistricting process.

Redistricting in Wisconsin
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General information
Partisan control:
Legislative authority; Governor can veto
End of 2011 session
Total seats
State Senate:
State House:
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures
Redistricting in Wisconsin is handled by the state legislature. Wisconsin is one of over 30 states that lets its lawmakers draw the lines. If a plan is not agreed upon by the legislature, a federal or state court may draw the lines.


Members of the state assembly and senate establish a committee to draw lines for the state legislative and the U.S. Congressional boundaries. The governor can veto any redistricting plan for any reason. There is no deadline set by law for Congressional redistricting, but the deadline for legislative redistricting is the beginning of the first legislative session after the decennial Census[1].

Dems object to outside counsel used

On January 4, 2011, an Assembly committee approved contracts for the Madison-based Troupis Law Office and Milwaukee-based Michael Best and Frederich to consult the Legislature on legal advice related to redistricting. The move came after the law firm of O'Neil, Cannon, Hollman, DeJong & Laing was fired by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The O'Neil firm was put in place when Democrats had control of both houses of the Legislature during the 2009-2010 session. The Michael Best firm employed Reince Priebus, who was, at the time, a 2011 candidate for Chairman of the Republican National Committee. The Troupis Law Office was run by James Troupis, a frequent contributor to GOP candidates.[2] Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca accused Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and Senate President Scott Fitzgerald of engaging in political payback by hiring outside counsel[2].

Calls for nonpartisan redistricting

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wrote an opinion column in the January 12, 2011, edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel arguing for nonpartisan redistricting in Wisconsin[3]. In his column, Barrett called for the Government Accountability Board to handle redistricting instead of the State Legislature[3]. Mayor Barrett said that the independent, nonpartisan judges that make up the board could guarantee public participation and input, ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act, along with being required to make legislative districts as competitive as possible[3]. Barrett also mentioned Iowa's nonpartisan redistricting method and credited the plan as one that "puts good government first"[3].

Democratic leaders -- worried that Republicans will gerrymander districts -- wanted an independent commission created. However, a similar bill the year prior -- when Democrats were in power -- never made it to the floor.

In January of 2011, two Wisconsin newspapers issued editorials that criticized redistricting practices. The Sheboygan Press criticized Democrats, who previously controlled the Legislature, for not passing a bill that would create an independent redistricting commission in a January 12, 2011, editorial. The editorial said that: "Democrats...have no one to blame but themselves."[4]

In a January 9, 2011 editorial, The Racine Journal Times called on the Legislature to surrender it's redistricting power and suggested that the Government Accountability Board take over redistricting responsibilities. The editorial also cited lawsuits in the 1980, 1990, and 2000 censuses that affected redistricting in Wisconsin.[5] The lawsuit involving redistricting in the 2000 Census resulted in legal costs of about $2 million according to the editorial.[5]

Census Results

Wisconsin remained at eight congressional seats as a result of the 2010 Census[6]. Ideal Congressional districts would have 710,873 residents each. That meant that House districts 1,2, and 3 needed to lose population, while 4, 5, 6, and 8 needed to gain some citizens.

On March 9, 2011, the Census Bureau shipped Wisconsin's local census data to the governor and legislative leaders. This data guided redistricting for state and local offices. The data was publicly available for downloading.[7]

City/County population changes

These tables show the change in population in the five largest cities and counties in Wisconsin from 2000-2010.[8]

Top five most populous cities
City 2000 Population 2010 Population Percent Change
Milwaukee 596,974 594,833 -0.4%
Madison 208,054 233,209 12.1%
Green Bay 102,313 104,057 1.7%
Kenosha 90,352 99,218 9.8%
Racine 81,855 78,860 -3.7%
Top Five most populous counties
County 2000 Population 2010 Population Percent Change
Milwaukee 940,164 947,735 0.8%
Dane 426,526 488,073 14.4%
Waukesha 360,767 389,891 8.1%
Brown 226,778 248,007 9.4%
Racine 188,831 195,408 3.5%

Congressional Maps

Figure 1: This map shows Wisconsin congressional districts after the 2000 Census

Early media reports indicated that Republicans sought to alter the congressional districts in order to protect U.S. House freshman Sean Duffy, considered to be the most vulnerable Republican incumbent. In the proposed plan, Duffy's 7th District would have lost Portage County, which was one of the most Democratic counties in the state, and gained St. Croix, a Republican county.[9]

Speaking on the matter for the first time on June 30, 2011, Duffy said he did not help to draw up the map with Rep. Paul Ryan, but admitted he requested that Pat Kreitlow, his Democratic opponent, be kept in the district.

Duffy explained, "I said 'listen, whatever you do I want to make sure Pat Kreitlow is in the district.' Because I had heard some postings that said 'Republicans are going to draw Pat Kreitlow out of the district.' When I heard that coming from the Democrat side of the aisle, I wanted to make sure that didn't happen. And so I didn't know what the map was going to look like, I just made one request that Pat Kreitlow be included in the district."[10]

Republicans released their proposed congressional map on July 8, 2011. While it was not as controversial as the proposed state legislature map, the congressional one did redraw seats held by Reps. Paul Ryan, Sean Duffy and Tom Petri to make them more solidly Republican.

Democratic Party state Chairman Mike Tate issued a statement saying, "This is nothing but a pure, unprecedented partisan power grab. From now on, anytime any Republican claims they are fulfilling their constitutional duty when they defend this map, or they are trying to better represent Wisconsin, it’s either A) a bald faced lie or B) stunning ignorance.”[11]

On July 19, 2011, the state Senate passed the new congressional map along party lines,[12] with the Assembly passing them two days later. Democrats called the plans an unconstitutional power grab and argued the process was moving too quickly.[13] They were not able to offer an alternative plan in either chamber and said there was not time to come up with one.[14]

Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed the new maps into law on August 9, 2011, the day the state was holding six state senate recall elections. It was also the last day he had to act on them before becoming law without his signature.[15]

Legislative Maps

Figure 2: This map shows the Wisconsin state Senate Districts after the 2000 census.

On June 7, 2011, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald declined to say when maps would be ready for a vote when asked by a Democratic leader. Fitzgerald said there would be public hearings on the maps, but that he was advised by counsel not to comment on the process since it would most likely end up in court.[16]

It was reported on June 23, 2011 that legislative leaders redrew state legislative maps, kept them mostly secret, even from their own party members. Speaker of the Assembly Jeff Fitzgerald said he shared the maps with fellow Republicans in his chamber and decided whether or not to pass them in July, prior to the recall elections against nine senators.

At that point, Republican state Senators Luther Olsen and Robert Cowles, both of whom were the targets of recall elections, as well as President of the Senate Michael Ellis, said they had not seen maps of their own districts. While the legislature was not currently scheduled to be on the floor during July, a special session was called to address the maps. Ellis said he expected the senate to pass the maps before the recalls.[17]

Due to the unexpectedly ramped up schedule, many cities likely had to start over on their aldermanic redistricting maps. Under state law, these were completed before the state maps in order to prevent the splitting of municipal wards.[18] Republicans reportedly planned on changing the law so that legislative maps were put in place first, drawing anger from local politicians.[19] Milwaukee passed their maps 15-0, but may have had to start over. Mayor Tom Barrett said, "We have to decide whether to throw out all the work we have done. What the Republicans are doing obliterates the redistricting process."[20]

Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill on July 25, 2011 that allowed the state to redistrict before local governments complete their maps. The bill also required the state Supreme Court to create a three-judge panel to hear challenges to the new congressional and legislative maps.[21]

Maps released

Republicans publicly unveiled their plan on July 8, 2011. An early analysis said the new map put at least 11 pairs of current lawmakers in the same districts. Democrats decried the maps as gerrymandering while Republicans said they were just doing their jobs. The legislature may have taken them up as soon as July 19, 2011.[22]

Dems call for maps to be rejected

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) called on Gov. Walker on July 11, 2011 to reject the maps in favor of a more nonpartisan approach, calling it "a significant test of leadership for Gov. Walker."[23]

Walker rejected this notion, saying he had not even seen the maps yet.


Legislative hearings on the maps were held on July 13, 2011. Republicans defended their maps as legally sound, while Democrats said the plans were unconstitutional and nothing short of gerrymandering. Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D) said, "They are using redistricting to take away people's ability to hold government accountable through fair, competitive elections."[19]

Marquette law professor Richard Esenberg testified that the maps would withstand any legal challenge.[24]

WDC involvement

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed open record requests on June 28, 2011 that sought the proposed maps as well as information pertaining to the redistricting process.[25]

Following the release of the proposed maps by Republicans, the WDC put forward their own, more nonpartisan, maps. According to the WDC press release, the map "creates a large number of toss-up districts that could be won by either Republicans or Democrats. Based on how Wisconsin voters cast their ballots in 2008 – a strong Democratic year – and 2010 – a strong Republican year, 80 of the 132 assembly and senate districts under WDC’s plan have partisan splits of 10 percentage points or less."[26]

Redistricting Reform Act

Democratic state lawmakers, along with members of the Make Our Votes Count Committee, introduced a redistricting reform measure on June 28, 2011 that would put the process into the hands of two nonpartisan agencies.[27] Based on Iowa's process, the Legislative Reference Bureau and Government Accountability Board would be in charge of drawing new congressional and legislative maps, which the legislature would then vote on.[28][29]

Sen. Fred Risser said, "The Iowa approach is a nonpartisan approach, it's a much better approach from the stand point of the cost to the taxpayers and it's something that has worked well and we should learn from it."[30]

Maps pass

On July 19, 2011, the state Senate passed new legislative and congressional maps along party lines,[12] with the Assembly passing them two days later. Democrats called the plans an unconstitutional power grab and argued the process was moving too quickly.[13] They were not able to offer an alternative plan in either chamber, saying there was not time to come up with one.[31] The proposals now go to Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to approve them.

Maps become law

Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed the new maps into law on August 9, 2011, the day the state was holding six state senate recall elections. It was also the last day he had to act on them before becoming law without his signature.[15]

Walker's press secretary Cullen Werwie issued a one sentence statement that read, “The maps passed by the Legislature meet the criteria laid out by the courts including communities of interest, fair minority representation and compact, contiguous districts.”[32]

Democrats criticized Walker for privately signing the legislation during the elections. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca stated, "It is now clear that Gov. Walker signed these redistricting maps into law in a manner intended to hide his actions with only one goal in mind: giving himself and his fellow Republicans a monopoly on power in our state and dodging accountability for their anti-middle-class extremism."[15]

Legal issues

Citizen lawsuit

On June 10, 2011, fifteen citizens, including former state Senate majority Leader Judy Robson, filed a lawsuit seeking new redistricting maps to be drawn by a panel of judges.

Robson stated, “We are petitioning the court to redraw the legislative district lines. After the 2010 census, it was clear the legislative district maps were no longer equal. We are asking the court to do this since the Legislature has failed to act.”[33]

Additionally, the group of citizens had asked a federal judge in July 2011 to throw out the new maps approved by the legislature, alleging they violated both the state and U.S. constitutions, as well as the federal Voting Rights Act, by dividing cities and minority communities.[34] The new maps, they argued, disenfranchised a large number of voters by depriving them of the right to vote for a state senator in November 2012. Senators in Wisconsin serve four-year staggered terms. Under the normal process, voters electing a senator in 2008 would vote again in 2012, but some 300,000 of those voters had been shifted to new districts, meaning they wouldn't vote until 2014.[35]

On July 27, 2011, the federal court in Milwaukee addressed the first suit, saying it would not take over the process and draw the maps, citing no special circumstances that would necessitate such a move.[36]

On September 26, 2011, Chief Judge for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Frank Easterbrook issued an order that created a federal three-judge panel to hear the case. It was made up of Joseph Stadtmueller from the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Diane Wood from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Robert Dow from the Northern District of Illinois.[37]

On October 21, 2011, the three-judge panel ruled the suit could continue, noting the 300,000 voters in question. "That number vastly exceeds the 173,976 voters that were disenfranchised under the 1983 redistricting law, which persuaded the three-judge panel to find a constitutional violation. If the plaintiffs are correct that the redistricting law disenfranchises 300,000 voters, then their claim for relief appears much more than speculative at this stage of the proceedings," the decision stated.[35]

Congressional delegation tries to join suit

In mid-November 2011, the state's five Republican U.S. House members filed paperwork to intervene in the case to protect their interest. The three Democratic members of Congress also filed to join the suit. The group that originally brought the lawsuit argued against allowing congressional members of either party from joining, saying it would open the floodgates to a myriad of parties wishing to protect their own interests. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R), who represented the state in the suit, said he did not oppose allowing the Republican members of Congress to intervene and would most likely not oppose allowing Democrats as well.[38]

Republican depositions

The three-judge panel ruled on December 8, 2011 that a consultant and a Senate aide who helped draft the maps had to give depositions and turn over documents to Democrats in the case.[39] The panel issued a similar ruling on December 20, 2011 and on January 3, 2012 clarified the decision, saying that nearly all information must be released by Republicans, who had argued for secrecy under attorney-client privilege.[40]

The panel said that GOP legislators filed "frivolous" motions in an attempt to keep information private and ordered them to pay the attorney's fees for the plaintiffs in the motion. The ruling stated, "Quite frankly, the Legislature and the actions of its counsel give every appearance of flailing wildly in a desperate attempt to hide from both the court and the public the true nature of exactly what transpired in the redistricting process." It goes on to say the court "will not suffer the sort of disinformation, foot-dragging, and obfuscation now being engaged in by Wisconsin's elected officials and/or their attorneys."[41]

Documents ordered released

In early February 2012, the GOP released documents that showed nearly all Republican legislators signed legal agreements to not discuss the maps while they were in progress. Also included was a memo of talking points that instructed Republican legislators that "Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room. Ignore the public comments."[42]

The secrecy agreements all have the signature of attorney Eric McLeod of Michael Best & Friedrich, who was one of the attorneys who advised legislators during the map-making process. In a deposition, Adam Foltz, a legislative aide to Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, said he probably helped write the talking points, but did not remember doing so. When asked about the stated suggestion to ignore public comments, Foltz said, "I honestly don't know exactly what it's referring to there."[42] While Fitzgerald had yet to comment on the matter, his brother, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, said of the talking points, "I've never seen that and no other member of my caucus has seen that. It wasn't put together for me."[43]

The ripples from their release continued to grow - on February 9, 2012, thirteen Democratic legislators sent Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen a letter that requested an investigation by the Department of Justice.[44]

Despite the order, Republicans continued to seek to keep 84 documents, mostly emails, confidential. Voces de la Frontera said the earlier order was clear and the documents must be released. The group contended open meeting laws and the state Constitution were violated by Republicans when they drafted their maps in secrecy.[45] On February 16, 2012, the three-judge panel agreed the documents could not be kept secret and forced Republicans to release them, saying it was “an all but shameful attempt” to keep redistricting out of the public eye. Most of the documents were between GOP-hired attorneys and legislative staffers working on the map.[46] They indicated that a large amount of the public testimony given in favor of the maps was choreographed by Republicans.[47]

Discovery of withheld documents

After Democrats took control of the state Senate in August, they demanded access to the Michael Best case file, releasing all of the documents they received to the public. However, after plaintiffs compared records with what had been released, they found emails that should have been turned over but never were. An investigation was undertaken, revealing 34 emails that were withheld.[48]

The emails discuss the process Republicans used to draw up the maps, including the details related to a July 2011 public hearing that was highly orchestrated to support Republicans. Attorneys for the legislature recruited people to testify, outlined witness testimony, and wrote questions for Republican committee members. There was also a concentrated effort to keep Latinos within the same Senate district so if changes were required they would be limited.[49]

Errors in maps

In a memo issued January 13, 2012, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board said they were unable to strictly follow the law setting legislative boundaries, and that some voters were not in the districts legislators intended them to be. An analysis of 19 counties by legislative technology workers found over 4,000 voters in the wrong municipality, with at least 1,000 that would probably have to be moved to a different Assembly district. The memo warned that the situation could have occurred in most or even all counties.

The problem stemmed from a reversal of the redistricting process. Normally, local officials draw their maps first, with legislative lines drawn afterward. During this cycle, Republicans, who were in the middle of recall elections that threatened their majority in the Senate, changed the law to allow them to draw legislative lines first. This meant they did so without fully accurate information.[50]

On January 19, 2012, the state agreed to turn over documents regarding the errors and identify someone who could be deposed over the matter. Earlier in the week the state had submitted a court order that sought to allow them to withhold the documents. The group suing the state responded by asking the court to sanction the state for not providing the records.[51]

Trial underway

The trial was scheduled to begin on February 21, 2012, but the three judge panel said redistricting was better left to lawmakers than the court. To that end they asked attorneys in the case to meet with legislators to ask them to consider altering the maps. Republicans said they would be willing to do so but that the law would not allow them. The court rejected this argument and asked them to reconsider a second time, but again they declined.

With their refusal, the court began the trial on February 23, 2012. If the court did find problems with the map, it was unclear if they would redraw them or if they would order lawmakers to do so.[52] Plaintiffs dropped several allegations from the suit, including charges that Assembly districts in black neighborhoods were inappropriately drawn and that the discriminatory effects of the maps were intentional. That left only two main issues for the court to decide - if the maps unconstitutionally diluted Latino voting power and if the 300,000 were moved needlessly, delaying their ability to vote in a Senate election.[53]

Presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said a written decision would be issued in the following few weeks.[54]

Two assembly districts ordered redrawn

The court issued their ruling on March 22, 2012, upholding congressional and state senate districts, but ordering two Milwaukee-area assembly districts to be redrawn. The panel stated the evidence “supports the need for a majority-minority district for Milwaukee’s Latino community, not just one or two influence districts.”[55] They sent the map back to the legislature, ordering them to redraw districts 8 and 9 without affecting any of the other districts. In the meantime the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board was barred from implementing the new map.

Although the judges upheld the great majority of districts drawn by Republicans, they harshly criticized the process, saying it was "needlessly secret, regrettably excluding input from the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin citizens."[56]

On March 27, 2012 the court took the task of fixing the two districts away from the legislature, saying lawmakers weren't able to make even the "precious few" changes necessary to bring the map into compliance.[57] In doing so, the court ordered the defendant and the plaintiffs in the case to try to reach agreement by April 2. If unable to do so, they were instructed to submit their own recommendations to the court by April 3.[58]

On the day both sides submitted their proposals, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice said the state would most likely appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.[59]

The court accepted the plan put forth by Democrats on April 11, 2012, saying it did a better job than the Republican plan.[60]

Appeal to Supreme Court

Despite previously saying that the maps drawn by Republicans "have largely been vindicated" by the court, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R) appealed the three-judge panel's decision regarding the two Assembly districts they ordered to be redrawn. The appeal went directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, who was required to take the case.[61]

Democrats called the move unnecessary and expensive. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) stated, "Does their appetite for wasting taxpayer money on protecting their own political interests ever end? It must be the first time in history anyone has appealed their 'vindication' to the Supreme Court."[61]

In response to criticism, Van Hollen said, "While some view the adverse portion of the district court decision as being inconsequential, I disagree. Any time a federal court rejects a state redistricting statute, and decides to redraw or adjust a legislative district, it is a serious matter and appropriate for appellate review."[61]

Van Hollen dropped his appeal on June 18, 2012, agreeing to pay plaintiffs Voces de la Frontera over $185,000.[62]

Voces de la Frontera lawsuit

The Latino community group Voces de la Frontera filed suit against the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board on October 31, 2011 stating that the new legislative redistricting plan deprived Milwaukee's south side Latino community of a voting majority in the 8th Assembly district.[63]

The lawsuit stated, “As a result of the redistricting plan, Latino citizens have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice to the Legislature of Wisconsin.”[64]

The case was consolidated with the case brought earlier by a group of citizens.[42]

Recall related suits

On November 18, 2011, a group of citizens asked a federal court to make sure that any recall elections taking place in 2012 occur in the old districts where the legislators were elected from, rather than the newly drawn districts.[65] Three days later, a group of Republicans asked the state Supreme Court to require any recall elections take place in the new districts. The new districts, drawn by the Republican majority, would help the GOP.[66]

Republicans filed a second lawsuit in Waukesha County on November 29, 2011 and requested that a panel of three circuit court judges hear the case. The new GOP suit was filed to make sure proper procedures were followed in the case.[67] On December 2, Republicans asked to withdraw their first lawsuit, a move Democrats immediately tried to block, saying the court should keep the case and dismiss it at a later date. The request came after it was known that Justice David Prosser, sidelined with an illness, would not take part in the case.[68] That same day, Republicans amended their complaint, requesting a single Waukesha County judge hear the case, rather than the three-judge panel.[69]

Three days later, Republicans announced they switched lawyers in the case, from the law firm of Michael, Best and Friedrich, to attorney Michael Dean. Michael, Best and Friedrich was the same firm used by Republicans during the redistricting process.[70]

Citizen Activism

Testimony regarding redistricting from July 2011.

Draw the Line Midwest

On March 15, 2011, the Draw the Line Midwest campaign was announced. Billing itself as "the nation's first regional redistricting reform campaign organization," Draw the Line Midwest was made up of 25 reform organizations from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. It was a collaboration between the Midwest Democracy Network and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.

The groups said the campaign was a coordinated effort to depoliticize the redistricting process by pushing for transparency, public participation, and protection of minority rights. They proposed alternatives to legislative plans and set up District Builder, free open-based software that would allow anyone to draw the maps. The site was expected to be up in all states by April 2011.[71]

Impact of recall elections

Nine Wisconsin state senators faced recall elections in 2011 - six Republicans and three Democrats. With the partisan makeup of the senate standing at 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats, the recalls had the potential to lead to a Democratic senate, which would have given them control over redistricting in that body and created a divided government.

Media reports indicated that Republicans sought to alter the congressional districts in order to protect U.S. House freshman Sean Duffy, considered to be the most vulnerable Republican incumbent. A Democratic senate would have greatly increased Duffy's chance of losing his seat.[72]

Sensing that Republicans might have tried to speed through redistricting legislation before the recalls, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate issued a statement saying, in part:[73]

Wisconsin's redistricting process has never gone forward under such a dark ethical cloud. Conceived in darkness and obscured from the voters, this heinous redistricting plot now is foisted on Wisconsin as a fait accompli. Never before in Wisconsin's modern history has the process taken place without local participation and the creation of wards. Never before have the people of this state had so substantial a decision made in such an absence of democratic principle.

During the last redistricting cycle following the 2000 census, Democrats controlled the Senate and Republicans the Assembly. Unable to agree on a map, the task was ultimately completed by the courts.[74]

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said a review of the maps showed two Democratic challengers in the recall elections - Fred Clark and Nancy Nusbaum - would be moved out of the districts they ran in. Incumbent Sen. Robert Wirch, the target of a recall, would also have been removed from his district.[75]

The new plan helped protect three Republican held state Senate seats, including Alberta Darling, the target of a recall.[76]


The following timeline was provided by the Wisconsin Legislature.[77][1].

Minority Democrats took issue with the pace of redistricting in the legislature and worried that the GOP was deliberately working to complete the matter before recall elections took center stage and had any chance to impact the chamber's make-up.[78][79]

Wisconsin 2010 Redistricting Timeline
Date Action
December 21, 2010 State informed of number of Congressional Seats on the 2010 Census.
February 15, 2011 Last municipal primary elections in currently drawn boundaries.
March 1, 2011 Expected date to receive complete Census data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
April 1, 2011 Final deadline to receive Census data.
April 5, 2011 Last municipal general elections in currently drawn boundaries.
August 2011 Municipalities created voting wards.
Fall 2011 Legislative redistricting database created.
January 2, 2012 Deadline to have state legislative redistricting plan in place.
April 2012 First municipal elections in newly created wards.
November 2012 First general election in newly created legislative and congressional boundaries.


The following modern redistricting history in Wisconsin as follows:

1951-The Wisconsin Legislature begins drawing the lines for legislative districts[80]. This has been the current practice of redistricting since the 1950 Census[80].

1951-Wisconsin remains at ten congressional districts for the 1950 Census[80].

1951-The Wisconsin Legislative Council creates a reapportionment commission consisting of 2 State Senators, 3 State Representatives, and 3 citizens for the purpose of legislative redistricting[80].

1951-The Supreme Court upholds the legislative redistricting plan drawn by the reapportionment commission[80].

1961-Wisconsin remains at ten congressional districts for the 1960 Census[80].

1961-A Republican controlled Legislature and Democratic Governor Gaylord Nelson fail to enact a redistricting plan[80].

1963-On a second attempt, the Republican controlled Legislature and Democratic Governor John Reynolds fail to enact a redistricting plan[80].

1964-The Wisconsin Supreme Court promulgate a redistricting plan that drew the lines for the rest of the 1960's.

1971-Wisconsin loses a congressional seat from the 1970 Census and is reduced from ten to nine congressional districts[80].

1971-A Republican Legislature and Democratic Governor Patrick Lucey fail to adopt a redistricting plan.

1971-1972-A 12 person reapportionment commission is also formed in attempt to enact a redistricting plan and fails to reach an agreement[80]. The commission consists of lawmakers and citizens that are appointed by the Governor.

1972-Members of the Wisconsin Legislature approve a redistricting plan in special session under the threat of state and federal lawsuits[80]. Members of the Legislature enact the plan for the 1970 Census against a deadline set by the Wisconsin Supreme Court[80].

1981-Members of the Wisconsin Legislature approve a Congressional Redistricting plan for the 1980 Census. The plan was approved on the second attempt after Governor Lee Dreyfus vetoes the first congressional redistricting plan[80]. Wisconsin remains at 9 congressional districts.

1982-A three judge panel of the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals promulgates a Legislative redistricting plan that governs only the 1982 legislative elections. The court promulgates the plan after Republican Governor Lee Dreyfus and a Democratic controlled Legislature fail to approve a legislative redistricting plan in 1981[80].

1991-Members of the Legislature fully enact a congressional redistricting plan. Wisconsin remains at 9 congressional districts[80].

1991-Governor Tommy Thompson vetoes a Legislative redistricting plan for the 1990 Census[80]. At the time the lines are drawn, Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and the Republicans control the Governor's office[80].

1992-The Western District of Wisconsin federal court promulgates a plan for legislative redistricting for the 1990 Census[80].

2001-Wisconsin loses a congressional seat from the 2000 Census and is reduced from nine to eight congressional seats[80].

2001-The Wisconsin Legislature reaches an agreement on Congressional redistricting plan for the 2000 Census[80]. This is the first redistricting plan for Wisconsin at its current allotment of 8 congressional districts.

July 2002-The Western District of Wisconsin federal court promulgates a Legislative redistricting plan for the 2000 Census after a split-controlled Legislature fails to approve a plan[80].

December 21, 2010-The U.S. Census Bureau releases reapportionment figures for the 2010 Census. Wisconsin remains at 8 congressional districts[81].

2001 redistricting

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[82]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 1.60%
State Senate Districts 0.98%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Lawsuits related to the 2000 Census

There were 3 lawsuits related to the Wisconsin 2000 census redistricting process.[83]

  • Arrington v. Elections Board, No. 01-C-121 (E.D. Wis. Nov. 28, 2001) : The complaint alleged that population shifts had rendered Wisconsin’s congressional districts no longer “as equal in population as practicable,” and that the Legislature would fail to redraw the districts to meet constitutional requirements. It requested appointment of a three-judge panel, an injunction against further use of the unconstitutional districts, and that the court draw a plan if the Legislature failed to do so. On November 28, 2001, the three-judge panel found that plaintiffs had standing to bring the suit and that it could not be dismissed. However, the court stayed its proceedings until February 1, 2002, in order to give the Legislature an opportunity to do its constitutional duty. On March 26, 2002, the Governor signed AB711, creating new congressional districts.
  • Jensen v. Elections Board, No. 02-0057-OA, 2002 WI 13 (Wis. Feb. 12, 2002) : The Wisconsin Supreme Court denied a petition for leave to file an original action in the Supreme Court to declare the existing legislative and congressional districts invalid and draw new districts in the event of a legislative impasse, on the ground that the petition was submitted too late in the process.
  • Baumgart v. Wendelberger, No. 01-C-121 (E.D. Wis. May 30, 2002) : On May 22, 2002, the three-judge federal court issued its order adopting legislative districts, accompanied by maps. The court rejected all 16 plans submitted by the parties and amici and drew one of its own, beginning with the 1992 court-drawn plan and making modifications necessary to achieve population equality. The court allowed the parties five days to review and comment on a draft plan before issuing the final plan. On May 30, 2002, the court issued an amended memorandum and order as its final plan. On July 11, 2002, the court issued an order making technical corrections to the plan.

Constitutional explanation

The Wisconsin Constitution provides authority to the Legislature for legislative redistricting in Section 3 of Article IV.

Ballot measures

The following ballot measures have appeared on the ballot in relation to redistricting.

  • Approveda Wisconsin Question 1, Method of Reapportionment (1953)[84]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wisconsin Legislature, "Wisconsin Redistricting Profile"
  2. 2.0 2.1 Chicago Tribune, "Democrats cry foul over GOP hiring law firms" 5 Jan. 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 JSOnline, "Improve Wisconsin's redistricting process" 12 Jan. 2011
  4. Sheboygan Press, "Editorial: Lots of blame for redistricting mess" 12 Jan. 2011
  5. 5.0 5.1 Racine Journal Times, "Take politics out of redistricting" 9 Jan. 2011
  6. Northland's News Center, "Minnesota and Wisconsin Both to Keep Eight Seats in House," December 21, 2010
  7. PR Newswire, "Census Bureau Ships Local 2010 Census Data to Wisconsin," March 9, 2011
  8. U.S. Census Bureau, "Wisconsin Custom tables 2010," accessed March 10, 2011
  9. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "GOP redistricting plan has Republican Cong. Sean Duffy's re-election in mind," June 13, 2011
  10. FOX 21 Online, "Congressman Duffy Responds to Redistricting Issue," July 1, 2011
  11. Politico, "GOP redraws Wis. congressional map," July 8, 2011
  12. 12.0 12.1 WDIO, "Wis. Senate Passes Redistricting Bill," July 19, 2011
  13. 13.0 13.1 GazetteXtra, "Wisconsin Senate panel passes GOP redistricting plan," July 15, 2011
  14. La Crosse Tribune, "Assembly passes maps redrawing political lines," July 20, 2011
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker signs legislation to redraw district boundaries," August 9, 2011
  16. Daily Reporter, "Wisconsin GOP Senate leader won't say when redistricting maps may be ready," June 7, 2011
  17. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "GOP leaders have redrawn maps," June 23, 2011
  18. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "State redistricting would force do-over for cities," July 12, 2011
  19. 19.0 19.1 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Parties joust over Wisconsin redistricting plan," July 13, 2011
  20., "GOP's redistricting plan wreaks havoc for some cities, but not Madison," July 14, 2011
  21. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker allows new legislative mapping, doesn't OK actual maps yet," July 25, 2011
  22. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "GOP redistricting maps make dramatic changes," July 8, 2011
  23. Times Union, "Democratic leader calls on Walker to reject maps," July 11, 2011
  24. WHBL, "Marquette law professor, GOP redistricting maps would pass legal challenge," July 13, 2011
  25. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, "WDC Files Open Records Request For Redistricting Maps," June 28, 2011
  26. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, "WDC Puts Out Alternative Redistricting Plan," July 12, 2011
  27. The Daily Page, "Citizens and Legislators Join in Support of Redistricting Reform Measure Based on Iowa’s Non-Partisan Process," June 28, 2011 (timed out)
  28. The Daily Page, "Democrats expect GOP to rush through Wisconsin redistricting plan," June 28, 2011
  29. Superior Telegram, "Democrats want nonpartisan approach to redistricting," June 29, 2011
  30. WKOW, "Democrats introduce redistricting reform," June 28, 2011
  31. La Crosse Tribune, "Assembly passes maps redrawing political lines," July 20, 2011
  32. WHBL, "Governor signs redistricting maps," August 9, 2011
  33. Beloit Daily News, "Robson joins suit seeking fair remap," June 28, 2011
  34. WSAU, "Lawsuit asks judge to throw out redistricting maps," July 22, 2011
  35. 35.0 35.1 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Court panel keeps alive challenge to state redistricting," October 21, 2011
  36. WTAQ, "Judges rule against extraordinary request on approved redistricting maps," July 29, 2011
  37. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Three-judge panel to hear redistricting case," September 26, 2011
  38. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "State's redistricting fight widens," November 18, 2011
  39. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Judicial panel deals setback to GOP in redistricting case," December 8, 2011
  40. WTAQ, "Judge orders redistricting consultant to answer questions over new state voting boundaries," January 4, 2012
  41. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Judges again rule for Democratic group in redistricting case," January 3, 2012
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lawmakers were made to pledge secrecy over redistricting," February 6, 2012
  43. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Fitzgerald: Senate Republicans didn't use redistricting talking points," February 7, 2012
  44. The Republic, "Democrat to seek Justice Department probe into Wisconsin redistricting," February 9, 2012
  45. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "GOP lawmakers argue to keep redistricting documents out of public eye," February 13, 2012
  46. Twin Cities, "Federal court blasts Wisconsin Republicans over redistricting," February 16, 2012
  47. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Federal judges slam GOP lawmakers over redistricting secrecy," February 16, 2012
  48. Green Bay Press Gazette, "State Republicans' lawyers hid emails in redistricting lawsuit," October 17, 2012
  49. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lawyers in GOP redistricting case withheld 34 emails from groups," October 16, 2012
  50. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Redistricting problem means thousands are listed in wrong district," January 13, 2012
  51. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "State to give documents to group that sued over redistricting map," January 20, 2012
  52. Mansfield News Journal, "Wis. trial over new voter maps to begin Thursday," February 22, 2012
  53. WISN, "Two Issues Remain In Redistricting Lawsuit," February 24, 2012 (dead link)
  54. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin's redistricting trial goes to judges," February 24, 2012
  55. BusinessWeek, "Wisconsin’s Congressional Redistricting Is Upheld by Judges," March 22, 2012
  56. Wisconsin State Journal, "Court strikes down GOP redistricting, orders just 2 districts redrawn," March 22, 2012
  57. Wisconsin State Journal, "Federal court orders parties in redistricting case to settle on boundaries," March 27, 2012
  58. Todays TMJ4, "Judges: Collaboration needed on Wisconsin voting map redistricting," March 27, 2012
  59. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "State likely to appeal redistricting ruling to Supreme Court," April 3, 2012
  60. The Republic, "Federal court accepts Democrats' revisions to Wis. election maps, ending long-running dispute," April 11, 2012
  61. 61.0 61.1 61.2 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Van Hollen appeals redistricting ruling to U.S. Supreme Court," April 19, 2012
  62. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Van Hollen drops appeal in redistricting case," June 18, 2012
  63. Washington Examiner, "Latino group sues Wis. GAB over redistricting plan," November 1, 2011
  64. Badger Herald, "State faces redistricting bill suit," November 1, 2011
  65. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Group asks court to ensure recall elections are held in old Senate districts," November 21, 2011
  66. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Republicans sue to place recalls in new districts," November 21, 2011
  67. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Republicans file second suit seeking new districts for recalls," November 30, 2011
  68. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Republicans withdraw redistricting lawsuit with state Supreme Court," December 2, 2011
  69. Courthouse News Service, "Dueling Claims over Wisconsin Redistricting," December 5, 2011
  70. The Republic, "Republicans change lawyers in case challenging Wisconsin redistricting," December 5, 2011
  71. PR Newswire, "Midwest States Launch Campaign to Pull Back Curtain on 2011 Redistricting," March 15, 2011
  72. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "GOP redistricting plan has Republican Cong. Sean Duffy's re-election in mind," June 13, 2011
  73. Democratic Party of Wisconsin, "Normalizing the Outrageous," June 13, 2011
  74. Sheboygan Press, "Recall effort could affect redistricting in the state," May 23, 2011
  75. Superior Telegram, "GOP releases redistricting plan," July 11, 2011
  76. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "How the GOP redistricting plan protects 3 Republican state senators," July 11, 2011
  77. Wisconsin Legislature, "Wisconsin Legislature Redistricting Timetable"
  78. The Cap Times, "Dems fear GOP will race to redistrict before recall elections," May 12, 2011
  79. The Northwestern, "Recall effort could affect state redistricting," May 20, 2011
  80. 80.00 80.01 80.02 80.03 80.04 80.05 80.06 80.07 80.08 80.09 80.10 80.11 80.12 80.13 80.14 80.15 80.16 80.17 80.18 80.19 80.20 Wisconsin Legislature, "Wisconsin Redistricting History"
  81. 2010 Census, "U.S. Census Bureau Announces 2010 Census Population Counts -- Apportionment Counts Delivered to President," December 21, 2010 (timed out)
  82. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”," accessed February 1, 2011
  83. Minnesota State Senate, "2000 Redistricting Case Summaries"
  84. UW-Madison Library Digital Collections, "1954 Wisconsin Blue Book"(See Page 779)