Redrawing Wisconsin's voting maps would have several layers. We used pizza to illustrate the challenge.

NOW: Redrawing Wisconsin’s voting maps would have several layers. We used pizza to illustrate the challenge.

WEST ALLIS, Wis. (CBS 58) -- When you order a pizza, you probably expect to have a consistent balance of toppings on each slice. But unlike pepperoni, you can't just move people around; thus, the process of dividing a state into districts of even populations while also maintaining a partisan split that mirrors the results of statewide election outcomes can be rather challenging.

The challenge before the Wisconsin Supreme Court is two-fold: First, do the current maps violate the state Constitution? If so, what is a fair remedy?

The state's high court heard arguments from both sides at the state Capitol on November 21. With a new liberal majority, progressives expect that court will strike down the current maps and adopt new ones ahead of the 2024 election.

CBS 58 asked Ricci Mane, the owner of Pepi's Pizza, to create a pizza with toppings laid out in a way that approximates the partisan concentration of Wisconsin, where liberal voters are largely clustered in urban areas in and around cities like Milwaukee and Madison.

The challenge for Mane was to then cut the large pepperoni pie into 33 slices, mirroring the state Senate. How many slices would have a fairly even mix of pepperoni and cheese?

"That'd be a pretty tough thing to do because someone's not gonna be happy, that's for sure," Mane said.

Liberals who are challenging the maps say the Senate's current makeup illustrates how the Republican-drawn maps give the GOP an unfair edge. Republicans currently hold a supermajority with 22 out of 33 seats in a state where four of the past six presidential elections were decided by less than one percentage point.

Conservatives counter Democrats put themselves at a natural disadvantage by mostly living in urban and inner-suburban areas. 

The Wisconsin constitution does not say anything about the legislature needing to consider partisan fairness when redrawing the maps every 10 years. However, UW-Madison Associate Law Professor Robert Yablon said there's precedent for courts throwing out maps because they had too much partisan bias.

"Very commonly, what they have said is, 'Consistent with our neutral and independent role, we should make sure that the map we're adopting does not have a partisan skew. It would be inappropriate for the court to sign off on a map that is clearly biased,'" Yablon said.

North Carolina might be the best illustration of how even legal interpretations can fall along party lines. A Democratic-controlled court struck down redistricting maps based on a partisan gerrymander.

Then, this past April, the court with a new Republican majority overturned its previous ruling. Conservatives wrote it would be "meddling" for the courts to get involved in a task delegated to the legislature. It's an argument Republicans are employing in Wisconsin as they defend the current maps.

If the Wisconsin Supreme Court tosses the current maps, there'd be another question to answer when enacting new maps: Do they comply with the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA)?

That issue came into play two years ago during the 2021 redistricting process. The state court's conservative majority picked maps submitted by a group assembled by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Republicans appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which then overturned the decision; it ruled those maps violated the VRA by reducing the number of majority-Black Assembly districts in Milwaukee.

Going back to the pizza analogy, a mapmaker could maximize the number of pinwheel-looking districts with a tip of densely-populated urban areas combined with wide swaths of rural communities. Those districts would be more competitive, but they also could make the Legislature less racially diverse because there'd be fewer districts with a population dominated by communities of color.

Yablon suggested previous decades' maps outline a path to more competitive districts in Southeast Wisconsin that comply with the VRA.

"There were some fairly competitive districts in the Milwaukee area," Yablon said. "And what happened in the 2011 map was a lot of packing of communities, and that's not something the Voting Rights Act requires."

The next step in this multi-layered process will most likely come in the next month or two. If the court is to adopt new maps, those will need to be in place by April, so the court will almost certainly need to decide by late January whether it deems the current maps unconstitutional.

From there, the court would need to decide whether to appoint an outside mapmaker to draw new districts or have the parties submit their own maps before picking one of them. 

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