Wisconsin’s Democratic governor rejects surprise GOP redistricting plan

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers shot down as a “sham” a surprise plan floated by Republicans on Tuesday that would have the Legislature approve new maps drawn by nonpartisan staff, preventing the state Supreme Court from overturning the partisanship. Current Republican. Drawn borders.

The Republican move comes as Wisconsin judges consider two Democratic-backed lawsuits that seek to overturn the current maps, first enacted in 2011, that are among the most manipulated in the country and have helped Republicans expand their majority.

Republicans have long opposed plans put forward by Democrats to enact a nonpartisan redistricting process. But now, facing the prospect of the state’s liberal-controlled Supreme Court overturning its maps before the 2024 election, Republicans have proposed enacting a new system modeled after neighboring Iowa.

“If you’re tired of arguments, if you’re tired of vitriol, if you want people to work together, this is a better way for us to do it,” Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said at a news conference.

But minutes later, Evers opposed the plan, which he had to sign in order for it to become law.

“Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to retain legislative control by having someone chosen and approved by the Legislature draw Wisconsin’s maps,” Evers said in a statement. “This is fake.”

Under the bill, maps would be drawn by the Legislative Reference Bureau, nonpartisan staff who work for the Legislature. Lawmakers will then vote to approve or reject the plan, and if it passes it will go to the governor for final approval.

The maps drawn cannot favor a political party, incumbent lawmaker or any other person or group, according to the bill.

This is modeled on Iowa’s redistricting process, but it’s not entirely devoid of politics.

Legislative staff there use nonpartisan criteria to draw districts that are then subject to an up-or-down vote by the Legislature and a possible veto by the governor. After the 2020 census, Iowa’s Republican-led Senate voted along party lines to reject the first maps produced by staff, sending them back for another try. The Legislature then accepted the second version, resulting in Republicans winning all four of the state’s congressional districts in the 2022 elections. Democrats had controlled at least one district for the past two decades.

Evers said the Wisconsin Legislature “cannot be trusted to appoint or supervise someone charged with drawing fair maps.”

“Wisconsinians deserve a redistricting process free of partisanship and interference from politicians, and it has never been clearer that today’s Legislature cannot be trusted to take on this important responsibility,” Evers said.

Democratic state Sen. Mark Spreitzer said it was disingenuous for Republicans to propose the plan after years of fighting nonpartisan redistricting.

“House Speaker Vos does nothing unless it is in the best interests of him and his manipulated Republican majority,” Spreitzer said in a statement.

The Assembly was scheduled to vote on the measure on Thursday. It then heads to the Senate, where Republicans have a 22-11 majority. If approved there, it would then go to Evers.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu did not respond to a request for comment.

“This debate over the years has undermined people’s respect for the process of governing and the belief that we are truly represented,” said Republican Rep. Joel Kitchens, who joined Vos and dozens of other Republican lawmakers at the news. conference. “So I think this is the right time to get it done.”

Vos said he prefers the current map-drawing system — which gives full power to the Legislature — but “sometimes you have to listen and change your mind.” The proposal would also avoid wasting millions of dollars fighting pending redistricting lawsuits and potentially impeaching him, Vos said.

Vos and other Republicans have floated the possibility of impeachment if newly elected Judge Janet Protasevich does not withdraw from redistricting cases because she called the current maps “unfair” and “rigged” and accepted nearly $10 million in campaign donations from the Wisconsin Democratic Party. . .

Protasevich’s victory in April flipped majority control of the court from conservatives to liberals for the first time in 15 years.

Republican support for the nonpartisan redistricting plan came days after the Wisconsin Democratic Party announced a $4 million campaign to pressure Republicans to undo Protasevich’s impeachment. A six-figure television ad buy targeting 20 Republican lawmakers to run on Fox News was announced hours before Vos announced his plan.


Associated Press writer David A. Lieb prepared this report from Jefferson City, Missouri.

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