As we sit one week away from Thanksgiving, we also find ourselves inching along redistricting season.
This once-a-decade process of redrawing political maps typically follows the release of updated US Census Numbers. This year, pandemic and politically-induced delays caused more of a time crunch in redistricting than usual.
Governor Evers released a video this morning from his office in the Capitol Building, where he verbally and formally vetoed proposals for legislative and congressional maps for the next decade. These maps were approved last Thursday by the G-O-P-led state senate.
Evers, visibly frustrated, officially rejected these maps on video.
“What’s sitting in front of me here are gerrymandered maps modeled after the same gerrymandered maps we’ve had for a decade. Hundreds showed up on short notice to voice their opposition to these maps and not a single member of the public testified in support of these bills at that public hearing. And they were sent out to my desk over the objections of a decade’s worth of people in this state demanding better, demanding more, and demanding a fair, nonpartisan process for preparing our maps for the next ten years,” Evers proclaims.
Those public hearings took place at the end of October. While Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu were in favor, critics contended they were no better than the G-O-P drawn maps from 2011.
Those maps — drawn a decade ago — were drawn behind closed doors by private law firms. G-O-P legislators had to sign secrecy agreements before seeing the new maps for their own districts. The maps re-located hundreds of thousands of voters into new districts, and were also criticized for splitting the Latino vote.
Evers says this proposal is no better.
“The gerrymandered maps Republicans passed a decade ago have enabled legislators to safely ignore the people who elected them. And these maps here, they’re more of the same. They’re gerrymandering 2.0,” he says.
Governor Evers organized a nonpartisan commission in early 2021 to draft their own map proposal. That commission’s proposal was rejected last week by Republican lawmakers – and unusually, also by some Democratic legislators.
Today’s veto formally triggers court involvement – though involvement from the judiciary has long been expected. The Wisconsin State Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case.
Mel Barnes is staff counsel at Law Forward. She’s representing nonprofit voters’ rights groups in the state Supreme Court case, and says there’s a lot coming up this winter.
“What’s going to happen over the next couple of weeks is at the end of this month, the Supreme Court of the state of Wisconsin will announce what criteria it is going to consider for evaluating proposed maps as part of the redistricting process. And through the month of December, parties to that litigation will develop a plan for discovery, will submit proposed maps to the court, and will respond to the proposals by the other parties. This all cues the court up to then review those proposed maps and issue a decision in January,” states Barnes.
Meanwhile, related lawsuits over Wisconsin’s next maps await in federal court – but federal judges have signaled they will wait for the state Supreme Court to rule. And, in a related case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is also determining whether state Republican legislative leaders broke the law when they preemptively hired private attorneys to give legal advice over presumed redistricting lawsuits – though there were no such lawsuits at the time. However, that case has no bearing over the current redistricting dispute.
For more information on Wisconsin district maps, go to https://legis.wisconsin.gov/ltsb/gis/maps/