Neutral mapping

(First published in the January 30, 2020 issue of City Pages)

Gov. Tony Evers stops by Wausau to introduce Fair Maps Commission


Lincoln County Board Supervisor Hans Breitenmoser, front, speaks Monday with Gov. Tony Evers about the Fair Maps Commission

A new commission created by governor’s executive order aims to create political boundaries free of partisan gerrymandering.

Gov. Tony Evers announced his new Fair Maps Commission on Monday, at the Marathon County Public Library in Wausau, one of three stops the governor made including Madison and Kenosha. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes also stopped in Wauwatosa to announce the commission.

Evers in front of a packed room at the Wausau library said the commission would be made up of ordinary folks who are neither politicians or lobbyists. The maps will be developed with help from Department of Administration staff and done as part of the U.S. Census process.

District maps for state and Congressional districts have been drawn by whichever party is in charge of state government at the time of the 10-year Census. For decades, Wisconsin map largely were immune to partisan trickery because no single party controlled all three houses (state senate, assembly and governor’s office.) But Republicans had total control in 2010, and critics have called the resulting boundaries some of the worst examples of gerrymandering in the U.S. (that is, creating oddly configured districts meant to benefit a particular political party based on historic voting patterns). Critics point to former Gov. Scott Walker losing the governor’s race in 2018 with 49% of the vote, but Republicans winning 63 of 99 legislative districts in that same election.

More than 50 of the state’s 72 counties have passed resolutions supporting nonpartisan redistricting. Evers says the fact that issues people in the state overwhelmingly support, such as fair maps and medical marijuana legalization, aren’t reflected in the legislature’s decisions shows how gerrymandered districts are.

The Lincoln County Board in March of 2017 passed an ordinance calling for fair maps, which sparked others around the state to do the same. Lincoln County Board Member Hans Breitenmoser said the ordinance passed with support from members of all political persuasions. “I can tell you we don’t always agree on everything on the county board level, but we agreed on that,” Breitenmoser says. Breitenmoser was invited to the state of the state address in January.

The now GOP-controlled state legislature is tasked with adopting district maps, but Evers says he would veto any redistricting map that wasn’t fairly drawn in a non-partisan manner.