Redistricting Steals Choice from Wisconsin Voters

Posted: June 13, 2016
Updated: June 14, 2016

Ballot Box

About 2.8 million Wisconsin residents – almost half the state’s population – will have little or no choice about who represents them in the Assembly or Senate on Election Day. The reason: Only one major party candidate will be on the ballot in their Assembly or Senate district.

Only one candidate will be on the November ballot for 50 seats and in seven other races, a long-shot third party or Independent candidate will face a Republican or Democratic candidate (see table below). No third party or Independent challenger has been elected to the legislature in the past 20 years, according to a Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review.

Primary contests are dwindling. There are 230* legislative candidates on the primary ballot, the smallest field since 2000 when 235 legislative candidates ran in the primary. Legislative elections generally draw between 250 and 270 candidates; the high was 312 in the 2010 legislative elections.

Legislative districts were redrawn in a highly partisan way after the 2010 U.S. Census by the GOP-controlled legislature and approved by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The boundaries of the state’s 99 Assembly Districts were changed to each represent about 57,400, and the 33 Senate Districts about 172,300 residents each. The new legislative districts have been the subject of numerous federal court challenges that have been unsuccessful so far. A decision is pending in the latest federal court challenge late last month. Republican lawmakers control both houses with comfortable margins of 63 to 36 in the Assembly and 19 to 14 in the Senate.

In addition to redistricting, the state’s campaign finance laws have been decimated by numerous state and federal court decisions since 2010 that allow wealthy special interests to slather incumbents and candidates of their choice in targeted races with millions of dollars in outside electioneering support, in addition to large campaign contributions. As a result, fewer people are willing to risk running, knowing that they’ll have to raise a ton of money and that they may face sleazy attacks from dark money groups.

The WDC review of legislative contests also found:

  • Thirty-nine incumbents – 20 Democrats and 19 Republicans – face no challengers, including 11 freshmen incumbents who were elected just two years ago. Five additional incumbents face only minor party opposition;
  • Seven of the 58 legislative seats that have Republican and Democratic candidates facing off are open seats left vacant by an incumbent who is leaving or running for another office. Open seats are often vulnerable to party turnover, but that appears unlikely in this election. Only two of the open seats – the 85 th Assembly District, which includes Wausau, and the 18 th Senate District in Fond du Lac – could be considered competitive because each of the current officeholders won their last elections by less than 1 percent;
  • One Republican, Rep. Dave Craig, of Big Bend, who was elected to the Assembly in a May 2011 special election, faces no opponents in his run for the open 28 th Senate District seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Mary Lazich, of New Berlin. There have been no instances where only one person has been on the ballot for an open Senate seat since at least 1994.

Legislative Races with No or Only Minor Party Opposition in November

S: Senate A: Assembly D: Democrat R: Republican I: Independent L: Libertarian
†Incumbent.
±Primary challenger to an incumbent. The winner faces no or minor party opposition in November.
‡Primary candidates in an open seat. The winner faces no or minor party opposition in November.

District Candidate
A02 Andrew Jacque† (R) & Mark Grams (I)
A08 JoCasta Zamarripa† & Laura Manriquez± (D)
A09 Josh Zepnick† & Marisabel Cabrera± (D)
A10 David Bowen† (D)
A11 Jason Fields & Darrol Gibson‡ (D)*
A12 Frederick P. Kessler† (D)
A13 Rob Hutton† (R)
A15 Joe Sanfelippo† (R)
A16 Leon Young†, Brandy Bond±, Stephen Jansen±, & Edgar Lin± (D)
A17 Kim Burns, David Crowley & Marcus Hart‡ (D)
A18 Evan Goyke† (R)
A19 Jonathan Brostoff† (D)
A20 Christine Sinicki† & Julie Ann Meyer± (D)
A22 Janel Brandtjen† (R)
A23 Jim Ott† (R)
A24 Dan Knodl† (R)
A36 Jeffrey L. Mursau† (R)
A41 Joan Ballweg† (R) & Bradley Pearson (I)
A44 Debra Kolste† (D)
A45 Spreitzer, Mark† (D)
A46 Gary Hebl† (D)
A47 Jimmy Anderson, Julia Arata-Fratta, H. Tony Hartmann‡ (D) & Adam Dahl (I)
A48 Melissa Agard Sargent† (D)
A53 Michael Schraa† (R)
A54 Gordon Hintz† (D) & Jordan Hansen (I)
A57 Amanda Stuck† (D)
A58 Bob Gannon† (R)
A59 Jesse Kremer† (R)
A60 Robert Brooks† (R) & David Pelikan (I)
A62 Thomas Weatherston† (R)
A64 Peter Barca† (D)
A65 Tod Ohnstad† (D)
A66 Cory Mason† (D) & George Meyers (L)
A69 Bob Kulp† (R)
A71 Katrina Shankland† (D)
A73 Nick Milroy† (D)
A74 Beth Meyers† (D)
A77 Terese Berceau† (D)
A78 Lisa Subeck† & Jacob Wischmeier± (D)
A80 Sondy Pope† & Luke Josephs± (D)
A82 Ken Skowronski† (R)
A83 Jordan Karweik, Karen L. Schuh, Steven A. Whittow & Chuck Wichgers‡ (R)
A84 Mike Kuglitsch† (R)
A90 Eric Genrich† (D)
A93 Warren Petryk† (R)
A95 Jill Billings† (D)
A97 Scott Allen† (R)
A98 Adam Neylon† (R)
A99 Cindi Duchow† (R)
S04 Lena Taylor† & Mandela Barnes± (D)
S06 Michael Bonds, Thomas Harris & LaTonya Johnson‡ (D)
S08 Alberta Darling† (R)
S16 Mark Miller† (D)
S20 Duey Stroebel† (R)
S22 Robert Wirch† (D)
S26 Fred Risser† (D)
S28 Dave Craig‡ (R)

*Revised after June 14 decision by the Government Accountability Board to rescind Democrat Brandon Jackson's ballot access in the 11th Assembly District following a challenge to his nomination papers. The decision on ballot access was later than that for other candidates because the filing deadline for this district had been pushed back five days.