New Maps, Big Changes

FEATURED CONTENT by John Jacobson, Public Affairs Director, Ruder Ware LLSC

The conclusion of the 2023-2024 Wisconsin legislative session marked a pivotal moment in the state’s political landscape.

With the enactment of new legislative boundaries, drawn by Governor Tony Evers and passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, the balance of power in the state government is set to undergo a significant transformation.

The implications of these newly enacted boundaries are far-reaching and are already beginning to shape the political landscape as both parties prepare for both the upcoming fall elections and the 2025-2026 legislative session.

Democratic and Republican candidates are now strategizing on how to appeal to a broader spectrum of voters to secure seats in the state legislature. The shift towards more competitive districts has injected a sense of urgency and necessity for candidates who, up until the enaction of these new maps, might have only had to appeal to one far side of the electorate or the other. It is expected that more than 20% of Wisconsin voters will be shifted to new legislative districts.

To understand how evenly split legislative control might be, consider the outcome of the 2022 general election. Democrat Governor Tony Evers, and Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson both won their statewide reelection bids, despite being members of opposing political parties. Gov. Evers won with 1.358 million votes, while Sen. Johnson won with 1.337 million votes.

Applying Evers’ 2022 reelection numbers to the new maps would result in a Dem-controlled state legislature: 18-15 in the Senate, and 52-47 in the Assembly.

Applying Johnson’s 2022 reelection numbers to the new maps would result in a GOP-controlled state legislature: 17-16 in the Senate, and 51-48 in the Assembly.

You can now see how a mere 20,000 vote difference would have, under the new maps, swung the balance of power in the Wisconsin Legislature.

As Wisconsin gears up for the 2025 legislative session and imminent fight over the $100 billion 2025-2027 biennial budget, the stage is set for a markedly different political environment.

While it is difficult to predict how the “top of the ticket” will impact “down ticket” candidates, the numbers will most certainly be closer than they are today. Some believe a more evenly split legislature will force bipartisanship and collaboration, while others believe it will merely cause opposing leaders to dig their heels in deeper. One thing is certain – how things shake out is now in the hands of Wisconsin voters.

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