In 2018, Wisconsin voters turned out in droves to vote out Republican politicians who have been making Wisconsin less democratic. Over the last decade, Republican Gov. Scott Walker systematically made voting more difficult in Wisconsin by passing a strict voter ID law, restricting early voting hours, making it more difficult to vote with absentee ballots, changes to polling place regulations that inject partisanship into the polling place, and implementing extreme partisan gerrymandering. Wisconsinites had enough and kicked Walker out of the governorship. Nevertheless, the Wisconsin GOP’s gerrymandering was so successful that, even though Democrats won 54% of the vote statewide, they only captured 36 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin state Assembly.

Because Republican state legislatures remained in power, Wisconsin Democrats were unable to pass strong measures to make voting more free and fair. Democrats introduced a sweeping voting rights bill (SB 159) that included measures to establish automatic voter registration, prevent deceptive election practices, prevent voter suppression and intimidation, and establishes a voter bill of rights. The pro-democracy bill has not advanced due to GOP opposition. Democrats also introduced bills to extend voting to 17 year olds (AB 320SB 307), but the legislation did not progress.

A bipartisan bill (AB 168) that would improve access for voters with disabilities by creating an exception to requirement that voters state their name and address before receiving a ballot passed through the state Assembly, but did not advance through the state Senate.

With Wisconsin redistricting occurring in 2021 after the 2020 census, we can be sure that the Wisconsin GOP will do everything in their power to gerrymander maps in their favor. Scott Walker, who joined the National Republican Redistricting Trust as finance chair, has made it his mission to keep Wisconsin gerrymandered. This session, Wisconsin Democrats introduced legislation to create independent redistricting commissions (AB 303SB 288). Independent redistricting commissions should have wide, bipartisan support as they simply promote the drawing of fair maps, but that is not the case. There have been whispers that some Wisconsin Republicans may be open to establishing independent redistricting commissions, but we won’t hold our breath. Wisconsin voters need to do all they can to elect politicians who will put an end to extreme partisan gerrymandering by establishing independent redistricting commissions.