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Wisconsin Republicans send last-ditch redistricting plan to Democratic governor

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Posted at 1:33 PM, Jan 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-24 15:41:47-05

MADISON (AP) — The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly sent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers a redistricting proposal on Wednesday that largely adopts maps he proposed, but with changes that would reduce the number of GOP incumbents who would have to face one another in November.

Evers is all-but certain to veto the plan, which would then leave it to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to install the state's new maps.

The liberal-controlled state Supreme Court last month tossed the current Republican-drawn maps as unconstitutional. The court said it would draw new maps unless the Legislature and Evers agreed to ones first.

The political stakes are huge for both sides in the presidential battleground state, where Republicans have had a firm grip on the Legislature since 2011 even as Democrats have won statewide elections, including for governor in 2018 and 2022.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who has long argued for keeping the current lines the same, said Tuesday night that he would happily pass maps proposed by Evers. But on Wednesday, Vos defended passing the same maps the Senate did on Tuesday, which make some changes to the Evers map.

“We’re trying to make the map slightly a little bit more fair," Vos said.

Evers' spokesperson, Britt Cudaback, said Tuesday that if the Legislature adopts anything other than exactly what Evers proposed, “then they aren't the governor's maps. Period.”

She did not respond to a message Wednesday asking if Evers would veto the bill.

Evers did not engage with Republicans on their last-ditch effort to approve a map that might get his signature.

Vos on Wednesday showed The Associated Press text messages he had with Evers on Tuesday, asking the governor to talk. Evers texted Vos back that it didn't look promising. Vos said he was reaching out again on Wednesday and speaking with Assembly Democrats.

Vos said at a news conference that Evers would not work with them on it. But he said the maps were so close to what Evers proposed, Democrats should get behind them.

“We have met them 99% of the way on the maps that they asked for," Vos said. “What we’re actually doing is making miniscule changes to gerrymandered Evers maps.”

Vos said Republicans were not trying to get around the court ordering a map, but that the Legislature was instead doing its job to pass a plan.

“We are not trying to circumvent anything,” Vos said.

Republican lawmakers who would be drawn out of their current districts under the Evers map pleaded their case at the news conference. State Rep. Nate Gustafson, of Fox Crossing, held a tape measure extended to 15 feet.

“This is how far they drew me out of the 55th,” Gustafson said.

He and the others said they intended to run for reelection in their new districts if those are the maps adopted.

Vos said under the Evers maps, 30 Republicans would be paired against one another compared with just two Democrats.

“The surgical nature that was done on these districts was certainly done to accommodate Democrat candidates,” Vos said.

The Assembly passed it 63-35, with all Republicans in support and Democrats against.

The Legislature raced to pass maps ahead of the Feb. 1 deadline for consultants hired by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to submit their recommendations for new boundary lines. They were reviewing six maps submitted separately by Evers, Republicans, Democrats and others. They could recommend one of those maps, or their own. It would then be up to the liberal-controlled court to order the maps, unless the Legislature and Evers can agree first.

Republicans have a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate and a 64-35 majority in the Assembly, two seats shy of a supermajority. They have built their majorities under maps they first drew in 2011.

Under the Evers map, Republicans would have a 53-46 majority in the Assembly, and a 17-16 edge in the Senate, based on an analysis by Marquette University Law School research fellow John D. Johnson. His analysis used a statistical model to predict the results of the 2022 state legislative election had they taken place in the newly proposed districts.

Democrats would fare better under other submitted maps the court is considering, which is fueling the Republican push to adopt the Evers maps.

The new maps would be in place for November's election, when every Assembly seat and half of the Senate seats will be up for grabs. Vos said he was confident that Republicans could win under the Evers maps.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said Tuesday that Evers' maps were “clearly a partisan attack on us."

The legislative machinations in Wisconsin come as litigation is ongoing in more than dozen states over U.S. House and state legislative districts that were enacted after the 2020 census. National Democrats last week asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up a challenge to the state's congressional districts, but the court has yet to decide whether to take the case.