Title: Wisconsin State Representative Faces Difficulty Serving Noncontiguous Districts Amid Lawsuit Challenging Legislative Maps
Wisconsin state Representative Jimmy Anderson finds himself in a challenging situation, having to travel outside of his own district twice to reach certain neighborhoods in the northern part of his constituency. These noncontiguous districts are in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution, which mandates legislative districts to be contiguous. This issue has prompted a lawsuit seeking to overturn and replace the current Assembly and Senate districts before the 2024 election.
The lawsuit not only targets the noncontiguous districts but also alleges that partisan gerrymandering, a practice that favors one political party over another through strategic district mapping, is illegal under the state constitution. Democrats are optimistic that the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent liberal majority will reject the gerrymandering that has disproportionately benefitted Republicans and granted them a significant legislative majority.
The legal challenge against noncontiguous districts may provide an alternative approach for judges to address the issue without directly tackling the contentious subject of partisan gerrymandering. Wisconsin is known for having some of the most lopsided Assembly districts in the nation, with Republicans securing more seats than expected based on their average share of the vote. This practice of detached districts, like Anderson’s, is considered uncommon and “profoundly weird.”
Apart from hindering door-to-door canvassing efforts, detached districts fail to adequately serve the needs and interests of affected constituents. These districts pose a considerable challenge for effective representation, making it difficult for Anderson to reach certain neighborhoods in his constituency, and severely limiting his ability to serve them effectively.
While detached districts have been supported by a 1992 federal judicial panel, many experts argue that allowing noncontiguous maps grants mapmakers more flexibility to manipulate districts for partisan gain. Republicans, who currently hold control over the Wisconsin Legislature, proposed and adopted the Assembly and Senate maps featuring noncontiguous districts last year. Democrats, who hold the governor’s office, are now backing the legal challenge against these districts.
Contiguity requirements in redistricting have not always been explicitly defined, leaving room for interpretation. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that such detached districts do not align with traditional principles for shaping legislative districts, including contiguity and compactness.
As the lawsuit unfolds, the dispute over noncontiguous districts raises broader questions about the fairness and integrity of the electoral process in Wisconsin. The outcome of this legal battle will have significant implications for future redistricting efforts, potentially leading to more equitable representation for all Wisconsin constituents.
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