February 28, 2024

Wisconsin: R.I.P. Gerrymandering, Hello Fair Maps!

In Wisconsin, our grassroots partners are celebrating fair maps signed into law this month by Democratic Governor Tony Evers, which will finally represent the people’s votes in the state legislature.
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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign leaders, joining Governor Tony Evers as he signs fair maps into law.

In Wisconsin, we are celebrating the long-awaited end to partisan gerrymandering! 

Though not perfect, the legislative maps newly signed into law by Democratic Governor Tony Evers will significantly level the playing field, lead to fairer representation, and create an opening for Democrats to win the state assembly in November and the state senate in 2026.

Why it matters

In 2011, the GOP enacted some of the worst gerrymandering in the nation and has dominated the legislature ever since — despite Democrats netting more votes in legislative elections. 

  • Under the old gerrymandered maps, according to the University of Wisconsin Law School, in a 50-50 tied election Republicans could expect to win 64.8% of seats while Democrats win 35.2%.
  • In 2018, Democrats won every statewide race and 53% of the statewide legislative popular vote — 203,000 more votes than Republicans — yet captured only 36 of the state’s 99 Assembly seats. In 2022, while Governor Evers won 51.2% of the vote, Republicans won sixty-four state legislative districts while Democrats won just thirty-five.

The political implications of these new fair maps could be monumental for Wisconsin — and for the nation.

  • The new maps level the playing field, creating an opening for Democrats to win the state assembly in November and the state senate in 2026.
  • In a scenario of full Democratic governance in 2027, widely supported policies may become viable for enactment, including abortion access (68% support) and gun safety (81% support). 
  • Even more immediately for 2024, fair maps may also boost down-ballot Democratic candidate recruitment, voter enthusiasm, and voter turnout in November — which could increase Democratic vote-share at the top of the ticket and potentially swing control of the U.S. Senate and Presidency.

How we got here

This is truly a watershed moment for Wisconsin voters — and an era-defining victory for long-term grassroots organizing.

  • For years, groups like the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC) have been educating voters, spurring civic participation, and building grassroots power around fair maps. 
  • WDC’s long-time coalition organizer Carlene Bechen used to traverse the state, setting up teams of fair maps supporters that pushed for and passed local resolutions calling on the state to institute a nonpartisan redistricting commission.
  • It was this same grassroots base that brought the narrative of fair maps into the public consciousness leading up to the Wisconsin Supreme Court election in April 2023, when local MVP partners helped elect Justice Janet Protasiewicz, flipping the State Supreme Court to a 4-3 liberal majority.
  • Once a liberal-leaning court came into session, it took even more organizing, this time through the courts, to keep the push for fair maps moving forward. This work set the stage for a December 2023 ruling striking down the GOP’s rigged maps, and ultimately leading to the fair maps now signed into law.

MVP’s role

Since 2019, MVP has helped move over $7.2 million in partisan funding to forty-four Wisconsin groups.

In 2023, MVP helped move over $1 million to our partners for the pivotal Wisconsin Supreme Court race — including over $130,000 raised by dedicated MVP donors from their own friends, families, and networks.

What happens next

As MVP’s Wisconsin partners shift from preventing GOP legislative super-majorities (as they did in 2020 and narrowly again in 2022) to suddenly pushing for actual Democratic majorities, there is a greater need than ever to:

  • Identify, recruit, and develop the bench of candidates who are prepared to run for elected office in newly-competitive legislative districts across the state.
  • Catalyze, galvanize, and mobilize voters around these down-ballot races, and the incredible new opportunity they represent for communities to be heard and reflected in the state legislature.

With early investment, grassroots groups will be able to start this critical work now, instead of months from now (see the MVP 2024 Field Plan).

If we can fully seize this opportunity, we could activate the “Reverse Coattails” effect — in which this down-ballot enthusiasm actually helps Democrats carry Wisconsin in the Presidential election, as well as Democrat Tammy Baldwin’s campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

The moral of this story

This story is nowhere near over, but the moral is already clear:

  1. Organizing matters.
  2. Elections matter.
  3. Investing in both can transform our entire political landscape.

At MVP, we call this the “Double Bottom-Line” approach to political investing: Strategically deploying resources to win elections AND build bottom-up political power that lasts.

As political donors and funders, it is especially imperative that we view elections not as ends unto themselves — but as inflection points in a longer arc of progress, in which we can only reap the full benefits if we are willing to fund the organizing that must come long before and continue long after Election Day.

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