Redistricting battle takes center stage Wednesday, justices to hear oral arguments

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The court battle over what Wisconsin's political maps will look like for the next 10 years will take center stage on Wednesday when the State Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the matter.

On Wednesday, Democrats and Republicans will try to persuade justices on the state's high court how to draw new legislative and congressional districts.

The Legislature is required to redraw political lines every 10 years based on population changes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A decade ago, Republicans had control of the mapmaking process, but this year it's resulted in a stalemate with Gov. Tony Evers and the Legislature, unable to agree on new maps.

This leaves it up to the courts to decide. When the Supreme Court accepted the redistricting case, the conservative majority agreed 4-3 the new maps should follow a "least change" approach, which means the maps shouldn't differ much from the ones now.

Democrats attempted to have the case determined in federal court, but that effort was rejected. This now leaves it up to justices on the state's high court to begin the process of selecting new maps.

UW-Madison Political Science Professor Barry Burden said drawing new maps play an important role, because it can shape the future of Wisconsin politics for the next decade.

"This is a matter of partisanship and politics, one party trying to harm the other party and take an advantage themselves," Burden said during a Newsmaker program focused on redistricting.

Republicans will try to argue in court that maintaining a majority of the existing boundaries will disenfranchise the least number of voters.

Democrats oppose the maps drawn by Republicans 10 years ago, calling them some of the most gerrymandered in the country.

"Republicans are going to have a preference for keeping the cores of the districts intact and modifying them as little as possible," Burden said. "Democrats will try to keep counties and municipalities together and produce maps they believe are fair, arguing existing maps have a pro-Republican advantage -- which is true."

Democrats' proposed maps would still give Republicans an advantage in legislative races, but also create more competitive districts.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

With numerous parties expected to testify, it's likely to last more than five hours.

Once arguments are over, justices could issue a final decision in the weeks ahead.

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