Wisconsin Republicans make last-ditch effort to pass new legislative maps

Jan 23, 2024, 1:24 PM | Updated: 1:36 pm

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans made a last-ditch effort Tuesday to avoid having the liberal-controlled state Supreme Court put in place new legislative district boundaries for the November election.

Republican senators introduced new Senate and Assembly maps on the floor of the Senate, not giving the public or Democrats a chance to review them ahead of their release.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu told The Associated Press that the new maps were the same as what Democratic Gov. Tony Evers proposed, but with fewer incumbent lawmakers having to face one another in November. Two fewer senators and six fewer Assembly incumbents would be paired with other incumbents in the same districts, LeMahieu said.

Democrats said before the maps were unveiled that they suspected it was an attempt by Republicans to protect their majorities that sit at 22-11 in the Senate and 64-35 in the Assembly.

The Senate was set to vote on approving the maps later Tuesday, which would then send them to the Assembly.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court last month tossed the current Republican-drawn district boundaries as unconstitutional and ordered new maps. Evers, Republicans, Democrats and others submitted maps that two consultants hired by the court are now reviewing. Their recommendation is due Feb. 1, and the court is expected to release new maps shortly after.

But the court said it would defer to the Legislature if it could pass maps that Evers would sign into law.

Evers and Democrats appeared unlikely to back the new Republican maps released Tuesday.

“This is about one thing: Republicans desperately trying to retain power,” Evers’ spokesperson Britt Cudaback posted before the maps were released. “Full stop.”

Cudaback said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that any maps that differ from the maps as Evers submitted them to the Supreme Court “aren’t the governor’s maps. Period.”

The Senate went into a break for Democratic senators to review the maps before voting on them. The vote was expected Tuesday afternoon or evening.

“It’s another Republican gerrymander,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Dianne Hesselbein said before the maps were released. “Republicans are scared. This is their last-ditch, disingenuous attempt to hold on to power.”

All maps under consideration by the Wisconsin Supreme Court are expected to shrink Republican majorities.

Under the Evers map, Republicans would have a seven-seat majority in the Assembly, down from 29 seats now, and just a one-seat 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.

LeMahieu said the changes Republicans were proposing to Evers’ maps would not affect the partisan breakdown of each district.

This isn’t the first time Republicans have tried to take control of redistricting. In September, three months before the court ordered new maps, the Assembly passed a sweeping plan that takes the power of drawing maps out of the hands of lawmakers and gives it to nonpartisan staff.

But Evers rejected the plan, calling it “bogus,” even though it largely resembled a nonpartisan redistricting plan he’s pushed for years.

It was that bill that Senate Republicans proposed amending before passing it Tuesday. It was proposed just hours before Evers was to deliver his State of the State address.

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