50 State Report: Wisconsin Earns Failing Grade for Redistricting from Common Cause

Wisconsin earned lowest grade nationally for transparent and inclusive process 

MADISON, WI — Today, Common Cause, the leading anti-gerrymandering group, published a report grading the redistricting process in all 50 states from the view of the community. The comprehensive report evaluates public access, outreach, and education in each state based on an analysis of more than 120 detailed surveys and more than 60 interviews.  

Wisconsin earned the lowest grade in the nation: an F. The report found Wisconsin’s hyperpartisanship as the reason behind maps that aren’t reflective of the state’s demographics. Despite having a People’s Maps Commission, an advisory redistricting body 

designed to reflect the views of the vast majority of Wisconsinites, the commission was unable to secure sufficient budgetary or political support at the beginning of the mapmaking process. Once the commission did find its footing, the hyperpartisan state legislature passed their own biased maps, with blatant disregard for the people’s input. The Wisconsin Supreme Court also adopted a constitutionally dubious “least-change” redistricting standard, making it virtually impossible to redraw maps from their previous gerrymandering, even after a successful lawsuit.

“After a close look at all 50 states, this report shows more community voices produce better maps,” said Dan Vicuña, Common Cause national redistricting director. “When everyone can meaningfully participate and have their input reflected in the final maps, that’s how we achieve fair elections voters can trust. We found voting districts that prioritize community interests are the gateway to elections that lead to strong schools, a fair economy, and affordable healthcare.” 

Common Cause graded each state for its state level redistricting. Some states received a second grade for their local redistricting process in cases where advocates provided data. Each interview and survey asked participants about the accessibility of the process, the role of community groups, the organizing landscape, and the use of communities of interest criteria. 

“Fair voting maps through redistricting can succeed only when the people have the primary influence over the construction of their voting districts,” said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin. “However, despite Wisconsinites having had an entity — the People’s Maps Commission — in which to actively participate and provide input into the redistricting process, partisan legislative leaders in Madison prioritized their own, narrow political interests instead, which is reflected in our grade. In the future, it is critical that Wisconsinites limit the influence of elected officials in redistricting, prohibit hyperpartisanship criteria in mapmaking and challenge the court’s ‘least-change’ redistricting preference.” 

Common Cause found the most powerful reform is independent, citizen-led commissions where voters — rather than elected officials — administer the process and hold the power of the pen to draw maps. Independent commissioners were found to be more interested in fair representation and community input— rather than electability or party control. 

The report was authored by Common Cause, Fair Count, State Voices, and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).  

The report was published in collaboration with the Coalition Hub for Advancing Redistricting and Grassroots Engagement (CHARGE), which includes Common Cause, Fair Count, League of Women Voters, Mia Familia Vota, NAACP, NCAI, State Voices, APIAVote, and the Center for Popular Democracy. 

To view the report online, click here.