Wisconsin Happenings

The big story in Wisconsin is the new Assembly and Senate district maps. For a decade Wisconsin has had the most gerrymandered electoral districts in the country. The Republican legislature, fearing the Wisconsin Supreme Court creating a map, reluctantly passed Gov. Evers’ redistricting plan – the least democratic option of those before the Court. Gov. Evers signed the bill and Wisconsin now has a much more competitive and democratic political landscape.

This didn’t happen because Republicans were willing to compromise to resolve the redistricting controversy. Nor were they acting in the best interests of Wisconsin citizens. It was simply another calculated political maneuver. Evers’ maps were, as Assembly Speaker Robin Vos admitted, “the most Republican-leaning maps out of all the Democrat-gerrymandered maps.” Partisan advantage, no matter how slight, was more important than a fair electoral process.

According to analysis by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Evers’ maps for both the Assembly and the Senate have about equal numbers of Republican or Democratic “leaning” districts. In addition, the Assembly has eight and the Senate four undetermined districts. This means either party has a real chance to gain control of one or both houses.

But should balancing the number of partisan districts be the goal of redistricting? Gerrymandering to achieve party balance is better than having one party dominance. But it is still gerrymandering. I would argue that a better process would use objective criteria (population, economic or commuting patterns and contiguous shapes that respect other governmental boundaries) with no partisan considerations.

So much work still needs to be done. The federal congressional districts need to be redone. There is a lawsuit pending on this issue. Also, a truly non-partisan redistricting process and infrastructure needs to be created before the next census.

Another happening people need to be aware of is the constitutional amendments that will be on the April 2 ballot. There are two proposed amendments and both deal with elections.

Question 1 deals with private funding for election activities. Prior to the In 2020 election, a non-profit organization offered local election officials grants to help with the extra costs associated with COVID. Some 200 Wisconsin communities received help as did municipalities in other states. Supporters of Donald Trump claimed these grants contributed to his defeat and were examples of election fraud. There was no evidence of this and a Wisconsin circuit court judge upheld the legality of the grants. In 2021 Wisconsin Republicans passed legislation to prohibit private funding which Gov. Evers vetoed. Having failed with legislation and in the courts, Republicans are now trying to write this unnecessary policy into the state’s constitution.

Constitutional amendments should be for fundamental changes to the state structure and policies. A constitution is not intended to deal with minor rules and procedures. Given that these grants were a one-time event and created no problems it is simple unnecessary to prohibit the grants or to do so using a constitutional amendment.

Wisconsin voters should note that Republicans stripped $400 million from the 2023-25 state budget that included funding and grants for local election administration. Clearly if they oppose private charity for running our public elections perhaps, they should adequately fund those essential activities.

No states banned private election funding prior to 2021. As of January 2024, 27 states had enacted laws banning private funding for elections. Twenty-one of these states were Republican controlled and six had divided governments. Looks to me like this is about partisan posturing over non-existent election fraud and not needed electoral reforms.

The Wisconsin non-partisan League of Women Voters is recommending that people vote “no” on this amendment.

Question 2 asks voters to enshrine in the constitution language “to provide that only election officials designated by law may perform tasks in the conduct of primaries, elections, and referendums. “

I have been unable to find any news reports, court cases, or other evidence that there is a problem with unauthorized poll workers conducting elections. In fact, there are existing laws that regulate the selection and appointment of election officials and poll workers. (Chapter 7 of Wisconsin Statutes).

Why are Republicans pushing this unnecessary action? One can only assume the reason for this constitutional amendment is to stir up more false doubts about “election integrity.” It is a political tactic to increase their support by creating fake, divisive controversies.

One final topic to address is that paid family medical leave is again an issue in Wisconsin. Democrats have introduced legislation to create a program of paid leave. The plan would allow workers to voluntarily contribute to a program that would provide up to 14 paid weeks per year of family and medical leave. Businesses would be required to contribute to the fund. Those with more than 50 employees would contribute half of a worker’s contribution. Smaller businesses would have a tiered system of smaller contributions. The state would provide start-up funds of $259 million from Wisconsin’s general fund to establish a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Trust Fund. Starting in 2026, the fund would begin to pay out benefits to people with serious illness or the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

Currently Wisconsin has an unpaid program that provides two weeks of leave for serious illness or care for a seriously ill family member. The program allows six weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. This only applies to businesses with at least 50 employees. Federal law provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. It only applies to employers with 50 or more permanent employees.

Obviously, the current programs are completely inadequate. They don’t cover workers in small businesses. For most workers unpaid leave is essentially no leave. Most people cannot afford to miss a paycheck.

Minnesota, and thirteen other states, have some version of paid family and medical leave. The U.S. is the only major industrial nation without a program and 132 other countries have some version of paid leave.

The lack of adequately paid family and medical leave is one more example of the U.S being a backward nation that puts profits before the well-being of people. Republican opposition is the only reason we lack this sensible benefit for all our people.


Voters should defeat both constitutional amendments on April 2nd. They should pressure their legislators to support paid family and medical leave.