Boots & Sabers

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1405, 27 Dec 23

Wisconsin Court Preselects “Referees” For Maps

Isn’t it curious how the court selected these two people to decide if the new maps – yet to be drawn – are “fair?” How were they selected? Who interviewed them? Was there input from litigants in the lawsuit? How much will it cost? Was the selection process competitive? How many other people were considered? Who is accountable for their performance? Who is watching the watchers? While the story below attempts to paint them as fair, unbiased arbiters, the opaque selection process that chose them oozes a hand on the scale. This is not what good governent looks like.

When the Wisconsin Supreme Court last week ordered parties to a redistricting lawsuit to draw new legislative maps, it also named two referees to evaluate the maps’ adequacy.

The two consultants — University of California, Irvine political science professor Bernard Grofman and Carnegie Mellon University postdoctoral fellow Jonathan Cervas — may not be household names in Wisconsin, but they have played prominent roles in settling map disputes in other states.



Bernard Grofman


Grofman was recently one of two special masters the Virginia Supreme Court hired to draw new maps after that state’s bipartisan commission deadlocked on selecting new ones. Nominated by Democrats, Grofman worked with a Republican-nominated special master to forge new congressional and legislative maps in Virginia that followed similar principles the Wisconsin Supreme Court set forth last week.



Jonathan Cervas


Cervas has also been involved in creating new political maps. After a New York judge found Democratic-proposed maps unconstitutional, a judge hired Cervas to redraw boundaries for the state’s U.S. House seats and state Senate.


1405, 27 December 2023


  1. Merlin

    Welcome to Wisconsin’s new liberal super-legislature! It’s not like this was even remotely a stealth attack. Absolutely everyone knew how this court was going to perform. Judge Janet campaigned on it. They’ll have their way unless and until the USSC overturns their decisions. Evers should just submit his wishlist now and then head out on a permanent vacation.

  2. jonnyv

    Merlin is right. This wasn’t a stealth attack, it was WIDELY known that there was going to be a challenge to the maps. And the voters of WI still OVERWHELMINGLY voted for her.

    I look forward to seeing the new maps, and the reasoning for the exact changes. This will NOT swing anything in the state legislature. But it might make things a little more competitive in some areas of the state that have become a joke. Cervas redid NY maps, and they were very disliked by the Dems there, so I am hoping that this is a more level-headed approach. As opposed to the 2011 re-draw that was done with no good explanations other than, “We won, we can do what we want.”

    I don’t think this will significantly change the R to D ratio, but maybe the politicians can get a little closer to having to compromise on each side as opposed to such heavy partisan squabbling.

  3. dad29

    They’ll have their way unless and until the USSC overturns their decisions.

    Don’t bet on SCOTUS taking an interest here.

    Democrats don’t seem to think the law applies to them. That position has its dangers.

  4. dad29

    the reasoning for the exact changes.

    Why? There was no “reasoning” to the SCOWI overturn of the maps. None, zero, zip, other than “It’s Not FAIR, wah, wah, wah.”

    As opposed to the 2011 re-draw that was done with no good explanations other than, “We won, we can do what we want.”

    You mean after SCOTUS said “You won. Do what you want.”?

    The Legislature will remain 60%++ red under any LEGAL re-draw of the maps. But a LEGAL re-draw ain’t likely.

  5. jonnyv

    Dad29, actually this court DID give a reason. It was due to the contiguous territory phrasing in the state constitution. You can disagree with it, but at least they had a reason. No island areas, which is going to be interesting and difficult to fix based on some of the other boundary requirements.

    I would love to know how you THINK it will be redrawn and NOT be legal. You can say it is unfair, or gerrymandered, but my guess is that the LEGAL aspect will be mostly settled after the new lines drawn. But, if the Rs want to challenge the new maps on some basis of legality, they are welcome to do it as well. I think that there will still be at least 60% red districts, as there probably should be right now based on much of the rural areas that vote red.

    Even the courts said that the 2011 redrawn maps were done with political intentions and to favor Republicans in the state. They just didn’t find a reason to overturn them.

  6. dad29

    They cannot both “fix the ‘islands'” AND ‘increase competitiveness’ in districts while at the same time retaining ‘commonality of interest’.

    We agree that the R majorities will continue. We will disagree about the picky-little “legal” objection here, as those islands are very sparsely populated and IIRC there are only about 6 of them State-wide. That’s why SCOTUS approved the maps; those islands were the splinter. Democrats wish to create a log.

  7. jonnyv

    Dad29, the previous suits were not about the contiguous territory. They tried to block them based on the Voting Rights Act & partisan impact. I don’t believe they ever brought it to trial based on this reasoning before. So technically this is new territory.

    And while there are only a handful of islands, you can clearly see the how the Rs distorted some of the maps to create some of the strangest looking districts, clearly for political reasons. Again, I will be very interested to see what changes they bring and if they give a justification to why they make specific changes. I am hoping it is somewhat closer to the Iowa design that I saw in the past.

  8. dad29

    Ah, yes–the Iowa design that Tony the Twit vetoed.

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