Wisconsin Republican leader slams Democrats' proposed election maps as 'political gerrymander'

Wisconsin Redistricting
Posted at 10:57 AM, Jan 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-17 11:57:12-05

MADISON (AP) — Wisconsin's powerful Republican Assembly leader said he hopes the liberal-controlled state Supreme Court adopts new constitutional legislative boundary maps, even as he slammed proposals from Democrats as “a political gerrymander” and threatened an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court tossed Republican-drawn maps, long considered among the country's most favorable to the GOP, and ordered new maps that do not favor one party over another. It said if the Legislature doesn't adopt maps, the court will.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Republicans have approached Democrats about passing new maps in the Legislature, but “we have not gotten a warm reception to that idea.”

“We are ready, willing and able to try to engage in that process,” Vos said at a news conference Tuesday.

Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer questioned Vos' sincerity.

“We are always open to conversations with our colleagues, but have yet to be convinced that Republican Legislators are serious about passing a fair and representative map, especially given the extreme gerrymander they submitted to the court on Friday," she said in a statement.

Wisconsin is a purple state, with four of the past six presidential elections decided by less than a percentage point. But under legislative maps first enacted by Republicans in 2011 and then again in 2022 with few changes, the GOP has grown its majorities to 64-35 in the Assembly and 22-11 in the state Senate.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the maps passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2021, leading the then-conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court to adopt the maps that are currently in use. The court has since shifted to liberal control, and it threw out the maps last month.

In a 4-3 ruling, the high court said the current maps were unconstitutional because not all districts were comprised of a contiguous territory. Some districts included areas that weren't connected to the whole.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers, along with Evers, a conservative Wisconsin law firm, a liberal law firm that brought the redistricting lawsuit, a group of mathematics professors and a redistricting consultant submitted new proposed maps on Friday.

The map submitted by Republicans would maintain the current 64-35 GOP majority, while other maps would narrow it to as little as a one-seat Republican edge, according to an analysis by Marquette University Law School research fellow John D. Johnson

Vos dismissed the maps submitted by Democrats, saying they would move too many boundary lines and force incumbent lawmakers to run against one another. He called them “nothing more than a political gerrymander.”

In the 2022 election, Wisconsin’s Assembly districts had the nation’s second-largest Republican tilt behind only West Virginia, according to an Associated Press statistical analysis that was designed to detect potential gerrymandering. Republicans received less than 55% of the votes cast for major party Assembly candidates, yet they won 65% of the seats.

The submitted maps are being reviewed now by two consultants hired by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. They will submit their report by Feb. 1, which will include their recommended maps.

“My hope is that the court, in any fair reading, rejects the maps that were submitted which have large partisan bias and either has maps drawn by the professors, if they go that route, or ultimately we'll have to go to the (U.S.) Supreme Court and demonstrate the huge political nature of what they’ve done, ” Vos said.

When asked when such an appeal would be filed or what it would argue, Vos declined to say.

“Our goal is not to rush to the U.S. Supreme Court," Vos said. “We want to try and have a map that meets the constitution."

Republicans have indicated that they would argue that there were due process violations. Vos has also suggested that the appeal would argue that liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz, who called the current maps “rigged” and “unfair” during her run for office, should not have heard the case. She sided with the three other liberal justices in ordering new maps.