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Friday, April 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 49.0° F  A Few Clouds
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THE SCONZ

Redistricting shows promising decade for GOP in Wisconsin


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According to Ken Mayer, UW Political Science professor who studies legislative redistricting, Wisconsin Republicans likely have carte blanche to bolster their legislative majorities this session by redrawing the maps for the Assembly and State Senate. In addition, they have an opportunity to strengthen their position in their Congressional delegation by tinkering with the state's U.S. House districts.

It will be the first time in decades that Wisconsin will be subject to a redistricting plan controlled entirely by one party. Ten years ago the current districts were largely written by the courts after the split legislature could not agree to a plan.

The Democrats' chances of successfully challenging the GOP map in court are limited. Their best bet is to bring a suit charging violations of the Voting Rights Act in the City of Milwaukee, which is specified as a protected area under the act because of its high concentration of minority voters.

Because Wisconsin is not losing or gaining a Congressional seat, the redistricting of U.S. House seats should be relatively tame compared to the changes coming to other Midwestern states, such as Ohio, which is losing two seats, and Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota, which are all losing one.

When Wisconsin lost a seat after the last census, the redistricting made Paul Ryan's district slightly more Republican and Tammy Baldwin's district quite a bit more Democratic, among other things.

It's hard to say what the Republicans will do to gain an edge in the legislature. With a large Assembly majority, the GOP's main goal is to protect the seats of the many freshman Republicans who won in districts that are traditionally swing or Democratic. Their strategy should be to move as many Republican votes into these districts as possible.

On the Congressional front, I would expect the GOP to concentrate on the 7th and 8th districts. Yes, they could go after Kind's district -- but the fact that he still won in an awful wave election year for Democrats means that it is unlikely he will lose in future elections, and that the district still leans Democratic. They would be better served bolstering the Republican base to protect incumbents Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble.

I don't think the GOP will target the 2nd, even though it was a competitive district ten years ago. A district that includes Madison will always hold an edge for Democrats in fundraising and activism. The same is not true Up North.

I admit, however, that my prediction of the Congressional redistricting is based on a perhaps irrational assumption that the current map won't be completely obliterated. A look at the districts in Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania or New York shows you that the ambitions of partisan cartographers have no boundaries.

The Swing State Project has a nifty table that shows the balance of power in all 50 states, compared to the situation 10 years ago. Whereas only 13 were entirely GOP-controlled in 2001, 20 will be in 2011. Dems also completely control two more states than they did back then.

It will certainly be interesting.

Follow The Sconz on Twitter or Facebook to get regular updates on city and state politics. Please send anonymous tips, interview requests or any other comments to jcraver@isthmus.com.

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