Despite the cold temperatures hovering in the single digits last Friday, roughly 45 people turned out with signs. —STAFF PHOTO
Despite the cold temperatures hovering in the single digits last Friday, roughly 45 people turned out with signs. —STAFF PHOTO
The Wisconsin Supreme Court held a six-hour hearing last Wednesday to change how voting maps are divided, which could form the state’s political district lines for the coming decade.

While no decision has come down yet and probably won’t arrive for some time, people in Eagle River and across the state organized a series of Fair Map Rallies Jan. 21 to advocate for fairly drawn, bipartisan district maps.

Rallies in 16 locations statewide were planned through the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition, with a local rally held in front of the Vilas County Courthouse in Eagle River and led by Jackie Cody.

More than 45 individuals assembled despite the temperatures that hovered in the single digits and wind chills that drove down the air feel even further.

Cody said after the rally that she was happy with the turnout especially despite the weather, adding, “That’s the cold shoulder we’ve been getting about fair maps too!”

Speaking at the rally were Cody, Tara Woolpy of Northwoods Progressives, and Dorothy Skye, president of League of Women’s Voters of the Northwoods.

The speakers all shared messages that fairly drawn maps are not a partisan issue, and that people across the state — both republicans and democrats alike — have passed overwhelming resolutions calling for new, fairly-drawn maps.

Cody said that across the state about 84% of people, both democrats and republicans, favor the drawing of fair maps.

She has been involved with Fair Maps Coalition since 2018, starting in Oneida County, and noted that over the last several years, seven towns and the city of Rhinelander have passed fair maps resolutions. Since then in Vilas County, nine towns, as well as the Vilas County Board also passed resolutions. Vilas County joined 55 other counties out of the 72 in the state who have adopted these fair maps resolutions.

Cody said the purpose of this and other statewide rallies was to send a message to the Wisconsin Supreme Court justices to end gerrymandering in the state.

“We want the Supreme Court to move beyond their partisan position and give us a decision that is fair,” said Cody. “I believe the court has the ability to do that — to look past the partisan politics and move to do what’s right for the Wisconsin people.”

On Nov. 30, 2021, the state Supreme Court ordered that any proposed map submitted to it must be a “least change” map — a new concept never adopted before by a Wisconsin court — which rejected maps prepared by the People’s Maps Commission created by Gov. Tony Evers in 2020.

State Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) and state Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) submitted their proposals to the Wisconsin Supreme Court ahead of the Dec. 15, 2021 deadline, and the court heard nearly a full day of arguments on Jan. 19. To adhere to the “least change” map rule, Evers also submitted a proposal by the same deadline.

Under the current maps that have been in effect since 2011, there are 125 municipality splits in the Assembly seats and 84 in the Senate. The map proposed by Evers has 115 in the Assembly and 76 in the Senate, while the Legislature’s proposal is 28 in the Senate and 48 in the Assembly.

In addition to maps proposed by the governor and Republican lawmakers, other maps were put before the court by partisan groups on both sides as well as nonpartisan groups such as Citizen Mathematicians and Data Scientists.

This marks the first time the state Supreme Court has drawn a map since 1964.