Analysis of Proposed Legislative Redistricting Plans submitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court

In December 2023, the Wisconsin Supreme Court threw out the existing state legislative maps. If the state legislature and governor cannot agree on new maps, the Court ruled that they would choose a remedial map from among a list of submissions.1 Those submissions were due to the Supreme Court on January 12, 2024.

The Court’s majority opinion described a set of criteria that they would use to evaluate the maps. However, they did not define specific metrics. Each party submitting a map was free to choose their own metric when arguing why their plan is best. There are many empirically legitimate ways to measure concepts like compactness and partisan balance. The most important thing is that the measures be applied to each plan in exactly the same way. That is what I have done in the analysis below.

To analyze these plans, I have constructed an open source repository of code and data available here. That repository generates the scorecards below, along with many more metrics. For instance, this file includes the results of each presidential, gubernatorial, US senate, attorney general, and state treasurer race in each proposed district from 2012-2022. I encourage interested readers to explore the complete resource for themselves.

Update 1/18: On January 17, the Court rejected the Petering submission because Matthew Petering was not among the original parties to the case.


scorecard for proposed remedial assembly plans

Population Deviation

This measures how well each plan achieved equal populations across districts. It is the range between the most and least populous districts, divided by the ideal district size. Lower numbers are better. The new submissions fall into two camps. The Law Forward, WILL, and Legislative Republican plans each have population deviations close to 1%. The rest of the plans have deviations closer to 2%.

Majority Minority Districts

Federal law requires that, under certain circumstances, districts be drawn where minority voters have the ability to elect candidates of their own choosing. In Wisconsin, that has generally meant 5 districts where Black adults make up a majority and 2 majority Latino districts. All the plans here accomplished that, with the exception of the Senate Democrats plan, which created a sixth majority Black district.


This is one is a simple pass/fail requirement. Every component (census block) of a district must be touching the rest of the district, with the exception of literal physical islands. The old maps were thrown out in December because the Supreme Court chose to interpret the Wisconsin Constitution’s “contiguous territory” requirement literally.

Geographic Splits

It’s impossible to draw contiguous, equal-population districts without splitting counties, municipalities, and wards. But the Court prefers plans to split fewer of them, if possible. Here I measure the number of municipalities, counties, and wards split into multiple districts, which themselves cross into other municipalities or counties. (I don’t count districts which lie entirely within a larger municipality or county).

Across all geographies, the plan submitted by Legislative Republicans has the most splits. WILL’s plan splits the fewest municipalities and counties, but more wards. The Wright Petitioners’ plan splits no wards. These ward split totals do not include splits in wards which the parties agreed not to count in a joint stipulation filed on January 2nd.


There are many ways to measure compactness, but they generally show similar rankings. See this table for multiple measures of compactness. In the scorecard below, I show each plan’s average Reock score. The Reock score is the ratio of the district’s area to the area of the smallest circle than can be drawn around the district. A score of 1 equals perfect compactness, so higher numbers are better.

Five of these seven plans have closely clustered Reock scores, between 0.36 and 0.39. The WILL plan achieves an average Reock score of 0.41, and the Petering (FastMap) plan a score of 0.44.

Partisan Balance

The partisan balance of a district could be measured in many ways. Here, I use a statistical model to predict the results of the 2022 state legislative election had they taken place in these proposed districts. I show both the likely number of seats won by each party, as well as the partisan lean of the 50th seat (determining majority control).

The most Republican-leaning plan is, unsurprisingly, the plan submitted by the Wisconsin Legislature. It creates 35 Democratic seats to 64 Republican seats. Democrats would need to carry the state by 16.3 points (58.15% of the two-party vote) in order to win a majority of the Assembly.

The WILL plan slightly softens this Republican advantage, creating 39 Democratic seats to 60 Republican.

All the other plans are more favorable to the Democrats. The most Democratic-leaning plan is the one submitted by Law Forward, which would create (per my model), 49 Democratic seats to 50 Republican ones. Democrats would need to win the state by 3.3 points (51.65%) in order to win a majority.


The scores for the Senate maps are generally similar. Recall that each Wisconsin State Senate districts consists of three adjacent Assembly districts.

Notably, the Senate Democrats plan and the Petering (FastMap) plans both create outright Democratic majorities, according to my model of the 2022 election. Of course, only even or odd-numbered elections take place in a given election year. The 2024 State Senate elections will cover only the even-numbered districts. Of those 16 seats, 6 are currently held by Democrats and 10 by Republicans. The Wright plan includes the most Democratic-leaning even-numbered seats (10), followed by the Evers and Law Forward plans (9 each).

scorecard showing proposed remedial senate plans

Edit: The plan submitted by the Senate Democrats contains 7 Assembly and 2 Senate districts which are not contiguous according to the Census Bureau’s Census Block GIS file. However, a joint stipulation filed by the parties states that the disconnected census blocks should not actually be counted as noncontiguous. I have accordingly edited these scorecards and this blog post to reflect this. I have also removed these blocks from the list of wards splits in all plans, and I have corrected an error in the calculation of Reock Scores.

Edit 1/18: I have added a footnote explaining the Court’s 1/17 decision to exclude the Petering map.

  1. If none of the proposed remedial maps satisfy the Court, they may request that their hired consultants draw one as well. ↩︎
Continue ReadingAnalysis of Proposed Legislative Redistricting Plans submitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court

Crossover voting is uncommon, even in Wisconsin’s wide-open primaries

In some states, only officially registered members are allowed to vote in a party’s primary. Not so in Wisconsin, which lacks any kind of party registration and where voters can choose to cast a ballot in whichever primary they please. They must pick only one, but all the party primaries—Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Green, etc.—are all printed on a single ballot.

The main argument for closed primaries is that they prevent crossover voting, particularly party raiding. Party raiding refers to members of a different party disingenuously casting ballots in another party’s primary, thereby thwarting the will of the target party’s actual members.

Despite these fears, existing research shows that crossover voting is uncommon. When it does happen, it’s usually “simply because [crossover voters] prefer those candidates to the candidates offered in their own party’s primary, or they view their own party primary as a foregone conclusion and want the best possible set of candidates to choose from in the general election.” Deliberate party raiding, almost never matters.

Wisconsin is a good place to measure crossover voting, since our election system offers no obstacles to voters doing this. Data from the Marquette Law School Poll is consistent with the existing research showing little-to-no meaningful amount of crossover voting. I last wrote about this in 2019. Here is an update.

Because there are so few crossover voters, I pooled several survey waves preceding each election to calculate the following statistics. I don’t include statistics from the 2022 primary because we didn’t intended primary participation in a comparable way.

The April 2016 primary vote in Wisconsin was still contested among both Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls. In surveys leading up to that election, about 2% of self-identified Republicans and 3% of Democrats told us they planned to vote in the other party’s primary.

Similarly, the 2018 August partisan primary featured a competitive gubernatorial contest between Democrats and a contested Senate primary among Republicans. Less than 2% of the self-reported members of either party planned to crossover to the other party’s primary.

In both 2016 and 2018, the shares of each party planning to vote in the other primary were statistically indiscernible. That’s not true of 2020, when clearly more Republicans voted in the Democratic presidential primary than vice versa. This isn’t surprising, given that the Democratic presidential primary was competitive, while the Republican primary to renominate incumbent Donald Trump was a formality.

Across the six survey waves we fielded preceding the 2020 primary, we found that about 5% of Republicans planned to vote in the Democratic primary, compared to just 2% of Democrats planning to vote in the Republican primary.

plot showing the proportion of each party's voters planning to vote in the other party's primary

It would be a mistake to assume that these crossover voters are engaging in strategic “party raiding.” It’s more likely that the small numbers of voters who identify with one party but choose to switch primaries are expressing a sincere preference between the other party’s candidates.

In the graph below, I’ve pooled the responses across all three primaries, 2016, 2018, and 2020. For both Democrats and Republicans, I calculate their average self-described ideology on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is “very conservative” and 5 is “very liberal.”

Democrats who plan to vote in the Republican party are noticeably more conservative than Democrats who are staying in their own primary. Likewise, Republicans crossing to the Democratic party are less conservative than Republicans staying in their own primary.

The average self-reported ideology of Republican and Democratic primary crossover voters are so similar to each other that they are statistically indistinguishable in this sample.

plot showing the average self-reported ideology by preferred primary

In 2020, slightly more Republicans intended to be crossover voters than Democrats, presumably because the Democratic presidential primary was more interesting. Depending on the outcomes from the first series of state primaries, the situation may be reversed in 2024.

Continue ReadingCrossover voting is uncommon, even in Wisconsin’s wide-open primaries

The median household income of Hmong immigrants in Wisconsin now exceeds the state average

The typical household income for a Hmong immigrant to Wisconsin now slightly exceeds the state average, recent census data shows.[i] This follows a dramatic rise in incomes among Hmong immigrant families over the past three decades.

Most Hmong immigrants arrived in the United States during the 1980s, as part of the refugee resettlement program. Like most refugees, they reached America with little besides themselves. In 1990, the median Hmong immigrant household reported a total income of $25,000 (in 2022, inflation-adjusted dollars). This was over 60% less than the state median of $64,000.

By 2000, the average Hmong immigrant’s household income was 12% of the state median. The gap further narrowed by the end of the decade, with the statewide estimate falling within the margin of error for Hmong families.

In the latest census data, collected between 2017 and 2021, the median household income for Hmong immigrants stands at $83,000, compared to $73,000 statewide. This difference is statistically significant, exceeding the 90% confidence interval for each estimate.

dot chart showing the median household income of Hmong immigrant households in Wisconsin compared to the statewide average, 1980-2021

The first large wave of Hmong refugee resettlement in the 1980s was followed by a wave of negative media portrayals. Wausau, Wisconsin, became a national touchpoint. In 1994, the Atlantic Monthly published a widely-read 6-thousand-word article “The Ordeal of Immigration in Wausau.” 60 Minutes ran a segment on the same theme.

Wisconsin reporter Rob Mentzer, revisited the piece in 2014, writing:

“Twenty years later, though, even the Atlantic Monthly piece seems not so much prescient as dated. Its predictions didn’t come true, and it’s shot through with a sense of racial anxiety — southeast Asians are taking over this fine white city — that feels gross.

The author of the piece, Roy Beck, achieved national fame from it, and its publication set him on a career path that would make him arguably the nation’s leading anti-immigration voice, as founder and director of the advocacy group NumbersUSA. In a profile this month, The New York Times called him “perhaps the most powerful member of the small but vocal movement that has helped scuttle every effort at an immigration overhaul for nearly two decades.”

Hmong Wisconsinites have continued to face challenges, as an Atlantic article by Doualy Xaykaothao, “To Be Both Midwestern and Hmong,” described in 2016. But it is simply not the case that Hmong people have failed to thrive in places like Wausau. On the contrary, the average household income of Hmong immigrants has more than tripled over the past 30 years, now exceeding the state average for all residents.


[i] The Census Bureau does not publish estimates of household income by reported ancestry. I calculated statistics for Hmong immigrant households using census microdata retrieved from IPUMS USA at the University of Minnesota. I define a Hmong immigrant household as any household in which a foreign-born person reporting Hmong ancestry resides. I adjust each year’s data for inflation using the CPI-U-RS All Items time series.

Continue ReadingThe median household income of Hmong immigrants in Wisconsin now exceeds the state average