2023 - 2024 LEGISLATURE
October 9, 2023 - Introduced by Senators Knodl,
Stroebel and Cowles, cosponsored by Representatives Oldenburg, Novak,
Tranel, Plumer, Mursau and Kitchens. Referred to Committee on Shared
Revenue, Elections and Consumer Protection.
1An Act to amend
3.002 (2), 5.15 (4) (a) and 5.15 (4) (b); to repeal and recreate
subchapter I of chapter 4 [precedes 4.001]; and to create
13.49 of the statutes; 3relating to: legislative redistricting.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
The content of this bill is the same as that in Engrossed 2023 Assembly Bill 415.
Currently, under the state constitution, the legislature is directed to redistrict
legislative districts according to the number of inhabitants at its next session
following each federal decennial census. Under current state law, following each
federal decennial census, most municipalities are also required to divide their
territory into wards. With limited exceptions, wards are required to consist of one
or more whole, contiguous census blocks (the smallest geographic units for which
census results are available). Traditionally, the legislature has used municipal
wards to construct legislative districts, although the legislature may adjust the
boundaries of a municipal ward and use the revised ward boundaries instead.
Legislative redistricting plans enacted pursuant to this procedure are used to elect
members of the legislature in the fall of the second year following the year of the
This bill creates a new procedure for the preparation of legislative redistricting
plans. The bill directs the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) to draw redistricting
plans based upon standards specified in the bill and establishes a redistricting
advisory commission to perform certain tasks in the redistricting process. The bill
also makes various other changes to the laws governing redistricting. Significant
aspects of the bill include the following:
Under the bill, a redistricting plan drawn by the LRB must satisfy several
criteria, including the following:
1. The plan must be based on population requirements imposed under the
Wisconsin Constitution and the U.S. Constitution and requirements imposed under
the federal Voting Rights Act, which, among other things, generally prohibits
redistricting plans from abridging the right to vote on account of race or color or
because a person is a member of a language minority group.
2. The senate and assembly districts established in the plan must satisfy equal
population standards specified in the bill.
3. District boundaries under the plan must coincide with municipal ward
boundaries and, to the extent consistent with the Wisconsin Constitution, the U.S.
Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act, must coincide with the boundaries of
political subdivisions. The number of political subdivisions divided among more
than one district must be as small as possible and must preserve the communities
4. Districts must be composed of convenient contiguous territory. Under the
bill, areas that meet only at the points of adjoining corners are not contiguous.
5. To the extent consistent with the requirements described in items 1 to 3,
districts must be compact. The bill also specifies how compactness is to be measured.
6. In preparing the plan, the LRB must be strictly nonpartisan. No district may
be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator, or other
person or group. The LRB may not use residence addresses of incumbent legislators,
political affiliations of registered voters, previous election results, or demographic
information to augment or dilute the voting strength of a language or racial minority
group, except as necessary to meet the requirements described in item 1.
7. The number of assembly districts may not be less than 54 nor more than 100.
The number of senate districts may not be more than one-third nor less than
one-fourth of the number of assembly districts and each senate district must contain
only whole assembly districts.
Redistricting advisory commission
The bill assigns several tasks to the redistricting advisory commission,
including the following:
1. If requested to do so by the LRB, the commission must provide direction to
the LRB concerning any decision the LRB must make in preparing a redistricting
plan for which no clearly applicable guideline is provided under the bill.
2. The commission must make available to the public at the earliest feasible
time copies of any redistricting bill delivered by the LRB to the legislature, as
provided under this bill, maps illustrating the redistricting bill, a summary of the
standards applicable to the LRB for development of the plan in the redistricting bill,
and a statement of the population of each district created in the plan and the relative
deviation of each district population from the ideal district population.
3. The commission must conduct at least eight public hearings on a
redistricting bill delivered by the LRB to the legislature, as provided under this bill,
unless the redistricting bill represents a plan drawn in response to a redistricting bill
that was previously delivered to the legislature and rejected by at least one house.
The commission must hold one public hearing in a city of the first class, at least one
public hearing in the northern half of the state, and no more than one public hearing
in the city of Madison. The commission must submit a report to the legislature
summarizing information and testimony received by the commission at the
hearings. The report may also include any comments and conclusions that the
commission's members deem appropriate concerning the information and testimony
received at the hearings or otherwise presented to the commission.
The bill also permits the commission to establish policies limiting the
information that the LRB may provide to persons other than LRB staff concerning
any redistricting plan drawn by the LRB, except that any such policy does not apply
to population data furnished to the LRB by the U.S. Bureau of the Census or to a
redistricting plan after a bill embodying that plan is delivered by the LRB to the
legislature as required under this bill. The policies established by the commission
must be consistent with the current law limitations applicable to bills created by the
Under the bill, the redistricting advisory commission must be created not later
than February 15 of the first year following the federal decennial census and
terminates upon satisfying its duties, until a new redistricting advisory commission
is created for the next round of legislative redistricting. The commission consists of
five members. The speaker and minority leader of the assembly and the majority and
minority leaders of the senate must each appoint one person to serve on the
commission. Within 30 days after the fourth commission member is appointed, but
not later than February 15 of the first year following the federal decennial census,
the four commission members so appointed must select the fifth commission
member, who serves as chairperson. The bill prohibits all of the following individuals
from being a commission member: individuals who are not eligible electors of this
state at the time of the appointment, individuals who hold partisan public office or
political party office, and individuals who are a relative of or are employed by a
member of the legislature, or are employed directly by the legislature or Congress.
Under the bill, the LRB must provide assistance to the commission regarding the
operations of the commission. In addition, upon the LRB's recommendation, the
commission must appoint a person with expertise in complying with the federal
Voting Rights Act. Finally, no member of the commission may abstain from taking
a vote on any matter before the commission, and no vote may be taken by the
commission without all five members present and voting.
The bill requires the LRB to perform certain tasks in preparation for drawing
legislative redistricting plans on the basis of each federal decennial census. For
example, as soon as possible after receiving from the U.S. Bureau of the Census the
population data needed for legislative redistricting, the LRB must use that data to
assign a population figure to geographic or political units to facilitate the drawing
of redistricting plans. Typically, this data is available on or about April 1 of the first
year following the federal decennial census. The LRB must also prepare and publish
an analysis describing the population of current legislative districts and the extent
to which the districts may violate the redistricting standards described above. In
addition, as municipalities complete their ward plans (typically, by October of the
first year following the federal decennial census), the LRB must assign a population
figure based upon certified federal census data to each municipal ward, for use in
drawing redistricting plans.
Not later than January 1 of the second year following the federal decennial
census, the LRB must deliver to the majority leader of the senate and speaker of the
assembly identical bills embodying a plan of legislative districting, drawn in
accordance with the standards described above. The bill further specifies a
procedure that the legislature must follow in considering the bills, although that
procedure is not enforceable by the courts. The bill requires either the assembly or
the senate to bring the bill to a vote expeditiously, but not less than seven days after
the report of the redistricting advisory commission is received and made available
to the members of the legislature. The vote must be under a procedure or rule
permitting no amendments except those of a purely corrective nature. If the bill is
approved by the first house in which it is considered, the bill must expeditiously be
brought to a vote in the second house under a similar procedure or rule.
If neither of the bills delivered by the LRB is approved by both the assembly and
the senate, the chief clerk of the house that failed to approve the bill must transmit
to the LRB information on why the plan was not approved by that house. The LRB
must then prepare identical bills embodying a second plan of legislative
redistricting, taking into account the reasons transmitted to the LRB by the
legislature, or, if applicable, by the governor by veto message, insofar as it is possible
to do so while complying with the standards described above. The LRB must deliver
the bill to the majority leader of the senate and the speaker of the assembly no later
than 21 days after the date of the vote by which the senate or the assembly failed to
approve the bill initially submitted. This second bill must be expeditiously
introduced and brought to a vote not less than seven days after the date of
introduction, in the same manner as prescribed for the initial bill.
If the second bill is similarly rejected by at least one house, the same procedures
apply to the preparation of subsequent bills, except that no plan may be considered
after January 31 of the even-numbered year following the census. Under the bill,
plans submitted to the legislature may only be passed by a bipartisan vote.
The bill also provides exceptions to this process to account for variations in the
timing of the release of federal census data. In addition, notwithstanding other
provisions in the bill, the bill authorizes the creation of a redistricting advisory
commission after the effective date of the bill in order to prepare new plans on or
before January 1, 2024.
Required contents of redistricting bills
The LRB must ensure that each bill embodying a redistricting plan it draws
contains specified conventions to apply wherever territory in a plan is described by
geographic boundaries. Also, each such bill must provide that the bill first applies,
with respect to regular elections, to offices filled at the next occurring general
election and, with respect to special or recall elections, to offices filled or contested
on or after the date of the next occurring general election.
Challenge based on population inequality
If an action is brought challenging a legislative redistricting plan adopted
under the procedure established in the bill on the basis of an excessive population
variance among senate or assembly districts, the legislature has the burden of
justifying any variance in excess of 1 percent between the population of a senate or
assembly district and the applicable ideal district population.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do
enact as follows:
3.002 (2) of the statutes is amended to read:
Wherever territory is described by geographic boundaries, such 3
boundaries follow the conventions set forth in s. 4.003 4.008 (1)
Subchapter I of chapter 4 [precedes 4.001] of the statutes is repealed 5
and recreated to read:
In this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise:
“Block" has the meaning given in s. 5.02 (1q).
“Commission" means the redistricting advisory commission established 13
under s. 13.49.
“Plan" means a plan for legislative reapportionment prepared under this 15
“Political subdivision" means a city, town, village, or county within this 17
“Ward" means a municipal ward in effect on April 1 of the year of the federal 19
decennial census and used in preparing plans as required under s. 4.005.