In the wake of gutless inaction by the GOP-run Legislature, retiring State Senators David Cullen and Dale Schultz are going to have their own hearings on Monday discussing how to install non-partisan redistricting in Wisconsin. In addition to the hearings, Sens. Schultz and Cullen got the LRB to draw up maps under their proposal. Here's an example of the Assembly districts that were produced as a result.
Now compare that to the GOP-drawn maps that we're currently under in Wisconsin.
So how did we end up with the gerrymandered maps looking as they did? Well you start with partisan voting patterns, and distribute accordingly. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Craig Gilbert wrote a piece this last week showing the divide between Milwaukee County, and the three counties to its west and north- Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee. The redder a place is on this map, the more Republican it votes, and the bluer a place is, the more Democratic it votes.
Note in particular the purple areas in western Milwaukee County, which are basically the cities of Wauwatosa and West Allis. Those areas used to be split off into their own separate legislative districts before the 2011 redistricting, but aren't anymore, which leads to distortions and more partisanship in the Legislature.
That's because when the Republicans did their secret redistricting, they set up numerous state legislative districts to involve parts of Milwaukee County, but also allowed those purple parts to be drowned out by obnoxious righties in Waukesha County. It's worthy to look into the Daily Kos's index of Wisconsin's 2012 vote in the Baldwin vs. Thompson Senate race by each Assembly and Senate district to see how this works. Baldwin won this race 51.47-45.91%, so a Baldwin (a Dem) winning by 5.54% would be the baseline for the state. All of these seats are "represented" by Republicans, by the way.
5th Senate District (Vukmir)
Milwaukee Co. 49.37% Baldwin, 48.54% Thompson (Dem +0.83%)
Waukesha Co. 32.12% Baldwin, 66.07% Thompson (GOP +33.95%)
13th Assembly District (Hutton)
Milwaukee Co. 47.79% Baldwin, 50.11% Thompson (GOP +2.32%)
Waukesha Co. 31.95% Baldwin, 66.34% Thompson (GOP +34.39%)
14th Assembly District (Kooyenga)
Milwaukee Co. 50.95% Baldwin, 47.32% Thompson (Dem +3.63%)
Waukesha Co. 29.40% Baldwin, 69.12% Thompson (GOP +39.72%)
15th Assembly District (San Felippo)
Milwaukee Co. Baldwin 49.33%, Thompson 48.23% (Dem +1.10%)
Waukesha Co. 35.95% Baldwin, 61.75% Thompson (GOP +25.80%)
The populations of these districts are such that you can nearly create 2 Assembly districts entirely in Milwaukee County and 1 in Waukesha County instead of spreading them all out into both counties, and the Milwaukee County territory would still be slightly GOP-leaning compared to the rest of the state. But doing so wouldn't have helped the GOP grab these seats, which is why they set it up as they did. In every one of these districts, Milwaukee County had slightly more votes than Waukesha County, but it's the stubborn Republicanism of Waukesha County that put each of these legislators over the top, so they legislate like they're from the 262 instead of the 414. If you look at some of the most heinous, anti-Milwaukee legislation that's come up in this session, including the anti-MPS voucher expansion bill and the recent proposal to have an appointed state board oversee Milwaukee's mental health services, you'll notice it often sponsored by legislators such as Vukmir, Kooyenga, San Felippo, Darling, and Lazich, who represent parts of Milwaukee County, but owe their allegiance to the 262. And Milwaukee County is losing out on representation that cares about their interests as a result.
The same phenomenom is true in Dane County, where Republican legislators Joel Kleefisch and John Jagler represent sizable amounts of South Central Wisconsin, despite being former Milwaukee "news" personalities, and despite roundly rejected by South Central Wisconsin in their own races in November 2012.
37th Assembly District (Jagler)
Dane County- Jagler 34.90%, Arnold 65.06% (Jagler -30.16%)
Columbia Co.- Jagler 41.15%, Arnold 58.73% (Jagler (-17.58%)
Jefferson Co.- Jagler 61.84%, Arnold 38.08% (Jagler +23.76%)
Dodge County- Jagler 62.09%, Arnold 37.28% (Jagler +24.81%)
38th Assembly District (Jagler)
Dane County- Kleefisch 36.04%, Michalak 61.30% (Kleefisch -25.26%)
Jefferson Co.- Kleefisch 54.26%, Michalak 43.00% (Kleefisch +11.26%)
Waukesha Co.- Kleefisch 70.39%, Michalak 27.43% (Kleefisch +42.96%)
And the Dane County parts that each of these guys lost by more than 25% aren't insignificant- they accounted for more than 1/5 of the votes in each race. But Jagler and Kleefisch ignore this sizable part of their district because they owe their victory to the counties that extend to the Milwaukee media market, so they vote in favor policies based out of the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation and their front men and women on AM radio instead of caring about what many of their constituents think. And so the county that added more people than any other in Wisconsin is basically ignored by some of its "representatives."
No wonder why these unpopular policies are being pushed by GOP legislators. They got elected by the non-Milwaukee and Dane County parts of their constituency, and decide that this makes it their right to make laws for those other places. Even if those places didn't ask for them, and don't support at their local levels of government. And it's also no wonder why the State Senate is backing off a lot of bills like the anti-Milwaukee voucher giveaway, because many of the districts up for re-election include districts closer to a 50-50 split with less Milwaukee influence. These Senators that would be vulnerable include Allan Lasee (1), Mike Ellis (19), Terry Moulton (23), Jerry Petrowski (29), and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (13, which includes Kleefisch's and Jagler's districts).
Looking at the maps helps to explain the outsized power that the 262 area code has in this legislature (and in WisGOP in general), and it's why so many of these policies seem to be out of step with what the vast majority of the state. Because it's well-documented that politicians from the 262 area code are generated from a Bullshit Mountain of bubble-world that relies on Faux News and AM Milwaukee radio for its "facts", and the Bradley Foundation and ALEC for its policy formation, and as a result, the rest of us all lose. So not only is independent redistricting a good thing to do from a "clean government" standpoint, it's also something that would seem to lead to better public policy as well.