Fairness, least change and gerrylaundering

I served with eight other Wisconsinites on the People’s Map Commission. Governor Evers asked the commission to create legislative and congressional maps without partisan bias or advantage, while holding true to traditional redistricting criteria.

We fulfilled those obligations. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave our maps an A+ grade. Meanwhile, the legislators drew district maps that would maintain partisan advantage. Princeton graded them with an F. After the Governor vetoed the legislators’ maps, the Wisconsin Supreme Court took charge.

Although the Governor supported the People’s Map Commission’s maps, he wasn’t allowed to present them to the Supreme Court. Why not?

Because the Supreme Court Justices, on November 30, 2021, declared they would only consider maps that differed as little as possible from the current maps. The People’s Map Commission’s maps did not meet this “least change” criterion.

As a former PMC commissioner, this astounded me. For one year, we heard from nearly two-thousand citizens from all parts of Wisconsin. Never once did we hear, “leave the maps alone.” We learned from 18 redistricting experts: not one mentioned “least change” criterion.

A person must wonder why the Justices prioritized “least change.” There is nothing about “least change” in the Wisconsin Constitution, nor in the statues. The legislature certainly didn’t follow “least change” when they redrew maps in 2010. The Supreme Court appears to want to cement the unfair partisan advantage of the current maps indefinitely. Robert Yablon, UW law professor, named this situation — where mapmakers perpetuate advantages — “Gerrylaundering.” Gerrylaundering is not right, not fair, and not just. It certainly is not what the people of Wisconsin told us they want.