by Baylor Spears, Wisconsin Examiner
January 24, 2024
Assembly Republicans approved a new set of legislative voting maps that would help protect some Republican incumbents from being paired in the same districts, setting it up to go to Gov. Tony Evers, who has already said he’ll veto the maps.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court, in a December ruling declaring the state’s current maps unconstitutional, urged the Legislature to draw new maps that follow the state constitution, but also started a process that would allow the Court to choose maps in time for the 2024 elections. In that process, several stakeholders, including Evers, have submitted potential maps for the Court to consider.
Lawmakers decided this week to work to pass maps ahead of an approaching deadline set by the Court, with the hope of retaining some control over the process.
The Senate amended and approved a bill on Tuesday afternoon that would institute maps that are based in large part on Evers’ submission to the Court, but with changes to limit the number of Republican incumbents who would be pitted against one another in the same district.
The Assembly concurred in the bill 63-35 on Wednesday afternoon with all Democrats voting against it. After the vote, Evers said that he wouldn’t sign the proposed maps.
“The only one that I’ll sign is my maps, and those are not my maps,” Evers told WSAU on Wednesday.
The Assembly approval of the Senate-amended maps came after lawmakers met in closed caucus for over two hours on Tuesday night following Evers’ State of the State address and again for over two hours on Wednesday morning before voting on the bill.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) told reporters on Tuesday that he would be “perfectly happy to adopt” Evers’ maps and that it was an option that his caucus would consider. Then on Wednesday, ahead of the floor session, Vos denied that the Legislature was attempting to circumvent the state Supreme Court by passing maps ahead of an upcoming Feb. 1 deadline, when consultants hired by the Court will submit their recommendations for new boundary lines. Republican lawmakers argued the maps passed on Wednesday would make small changes to place certain Republicans back in their communities. Rep. Patrick Snyder speak at the press conference ahead of the floor session. (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)
Vos said that the maps that the Legislature passed were “making miniscule changes to un-gerrymander” the maps submitted by Evers. He argued that the number of Republican lawmakers being included in districts together is proof of partisan gerrymandering.
“We still like our submission the best. What we realized is the Democrats and the governor won’t go along with that, so we have met them, 99% of the way on the map that they asked for,” Vos said. “We reunite a couple of the legislators with their communities and undo a couple of the political gerrymanders in a few of the districts.”
Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer (D-Racine) said the maps were specifically changed to protect Republican incumbents.
“The map in front of us was changed specifically to protect Republican incumbents. This is wrong and it puts politicians’ careers over the word of the people,” Neubauer said during the floor session. “GOP legislators, none of us should be using our power or authority to protect our own decisions.”
Reps. Amy Binsfeld (R-Sheboygan), Nate Gustafson (R-Fox Crossing), Bob Donovan (R-Greenfield), Robert Wittke (R-Racine), Pat Snyder (R-Schofield) and John Macco (R-Ledgeview) would be shielded in the Assembly under the maps passed by the Legislature.
Those lawmakers complained on Wednesday that Evers’ maps had removed them from their preferred districts. Gustafson demonstrated with a tape measure the 15 foot distance between his home and the boundary line of his current district.
“This is how far they drew me out of the 55th,” Gustafson said.
Snyder said that Evers’ map placed his home a block and a half outside the 85th Assembly district.
“What this means is with the governor’s map, I moved into the 87th where only 25% of the people I represent are still there. Meanwhile, the 85th Assembly district, which I have represented for the last eight years, 73% of those people are in the 85th district,” Snyder said. “These are the people that I have built relationships with. These are people that I have gone door-to-door and talked with. We might not have all agreed on things, but they know me.”
If Evers vetoes the maps, as he has indicated, the decision will go back to the state Supreme Court.
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