A proposal to draw Wisconsin’s political maps using a nonpartisan model would have helped Democrats in the 2012 elections and Republicans in 2010, according to an analysis by two moderate lawmakers using a hypothetical map from the Legislative Reference Bureau.
That illustrates how the model would more accurately reflect the mood of voters in a given election cycle, the lawmakers said.
The analysis, released Wednesday by Sens. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, found the proposed model for 2012 would have created 40 safe Assembly seats for Democrats and 31 for Republicans, with 28 seats rated a toss-up because the margin would have been less than 6 percent.
Under the current model there were 52 safe Republican seats, 36 safe Democratic seats and 11 toss-ups.
In the Senate, Democrats would have held seven safe seats, Republicans would have held four, and five would have been toss-ups (with the others not up for election in 2012).
Under the current model, there were eight safe Democratic seats, seven safe Republican seats and one toss-up seat.
Cullen noted 2012 was “arguably a Democratic wave year in Wisconsin,” with President Barack Obama and Sen. Tammy Baldwin winning and Democratic Assembly candidates receiving about 200,000 more votes than Republican candidates statewide.
“You would expect Democrats to do somewhat better in these elections, which is reflected in the (Senate Bill 163) maps,” Cullen said.
“The real maps tell a story of serious gerrymandering meant to serve a political party,” he said.
Cullen and Schultz said they also tested the model using data from 2010, a year Republicans swept into power, and found the GOP still would have had 56 safe seats compared with 28 safe Democratic seats in the Assembly.
“The reason that these hypothetical maps create more competitive districts and allow for the makeup of the Legislature to more closely mirror general voter sentiment is because these maps were not drawn with an underlying political purpose in mind,” Schultz said.
SB 163 would have the reference bureau draw up political maps, rather than lawyers hired by politicians in the majority party, as is current practice.
Legislators would still vote on the maps. The model would be similar to one used in Iowa, which results in fewer oddly shaped districts that group specific voters together, a practice known as “gerrymandering.”
The analysis of safe and toss-up legislative districts was based on votes cast in the 2010 and 2012 U.S. Senate elections and applied to those districts. The Legislative Technology Services Bureau ran the numbers using the hypothetical LRB maps.
Schultz and Cullen, both of whom plan to retire from the Legislature next year, are holding a hearing Monday on the proposal at 10 a.m. in the Capitol.
Republican leaders have refused to schedule the proposal for a public hearing.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.