Tuesday, October 3, 2017

So what would be a fairer Wisconsin Assembly map?

This is a bit of a rehash of something I cooked up a couple of months ago, but with today's arguments before SCOTUS about the Wisconsin GOP's redistricting of the State Assembly, I figured I'd take a look at what a fairer map of the 99 districts might look like.

First, let's review what the gerrymandered districts look like today.

Particularly note those Milwaukee-area districts, where the purple-to-blue western and northern parts of the county are overridden by the heavy GOP vote in Ozaukee and Waukesha Counties.

Now let's compare with what I came up with. I went to the outstanding Dave's Redistricting app, and drew up the 99 districts with relatively simple criteria. I tried to keep counties and cities together if possible, but also tried to keep geographically connected areas together if there were wacky city boundaries, such as we see in Madison and Milwaukee.

Other than making sure some majority-minority districts were in place in Milwaukee (really the only place where that applies happen in the state, given that each district is at/near 57,444 people), and that both Hispanic and African-American constituencies had majority districts, I tried to ignore demographic or voting statistics.

The end result was that Republicans have a definite majority of districts, using Dave's Redistricting information from the 2010 GOP wave year, but a majority of districts were also carried by Barack Obama in 2008. So that seems flexible.

It's easier to see what I did by splitting up the state into various regions. I'll go into southern Wisconsin first, so here's that.

Among the major differences outside of the SE Wisconsin and the Madison area is that I gave Sheboygan its own Assembly district (it's currently cut in two by the GOP gerrymander), I created a Columbus/Beaver Dam district which leans Republican, but doesn't dilute E. Dane County like the gerrymander does. I gave the bluer cities of Portage and Baraboo their own districts and connected them to the nearby rural areas, and those districts end up around 50-50, instead of having them as a blue vote sink in the same district.

I also blew up a goofy gerrymander in western Wisconsin (Assembly District 70) and kept all of Monroe County together. I also kept a Beloit-based district in Rock County instead of dragging it into Dane County, and created a stateline district west of that.

In the Milwaukee area, I tried to have districts end at or near the Milwaukee County line to break up the GOP gerrymanders that dilute suburbs like Wauwatosa, Brown Deer, and West Allis. I also took care to have 4 majority African-American districts (a 5th is majority-minority with African-Americans having a plurality of the population) along with 2 majority Hispanic districts in the city.

In Waukesha County, I tried to stick with geography, creating a Brookfield/Elm Grove district, a Waukesha district, a Menomonee Falls/Germantown district, and a Sussex/Pewaukee/Hartland district.

In the Madison area, I stuck with geography, even if it meant that it crossed city lines. For example, Middleton and west side Madison share a district, and Verona and SW Madison are in the same district. I also broke Eastern Dane County free of the GOP gerrymander that currently has them being "represented" by Bagger GOPs from Watertown and Oconomowoc.

And in the SE corner of the state, I tried to split up the districts to rural vs. suburban in Kenosha and Racine Counties. This is different from the current gerrymanders, which are intended to segregate the larger city from both the suburbs and the rural areas. This makes for more flippable districts on both sides.

A fun sidelight of this map is that Robbin' Vos stops representing suburban Racine, and his district ends up going north into Milwaukee exurbs like Mukwonago and Big Bend.

Now we move to the Appleton-Green Bay area, and I tried to tighten this up compared to the current gerrymander, and kept to geographic compactness. What I ended up with were a lot of districts that both voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and for Scott Walker in 2010, with many swings of 15-20 points between those elections.

Lastly, we move to Northern Wisconsin. And let's go back to the current gerrymander to help compare.

Now look at my districts of Northern Wisconsin.

You'll see that many of these districts are more compact than the sprawling, uneven ones that are part of the GOP gerrymander. I kept the Wausau-area seat compact and connected to the closest suburbs, and split up most of the rest of Marathon County north-south. I kept Dunn County in Western Wisconsin together instead of combining it with the Twin Cities exurbs, and tried to keep the Northwoods separate from both Wausau and the Green Bay exurbs.

Obviously, your maps can vary, but the point is that it wouldn't take much to turn Wisconsin's Assembly map into a fair one where both parties would have to work to stay in power in many more areas of the state, and where citizens would have a better chance of being listened to.

So if any of you SCOTUS justices or legislators want to rectify this mess, feel free to borrow as much as you want from this post. I promise I won't ask for (many) billing hours. :P

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