At a press conference in the Capitol Rotunda today, Governor Tony Evers and Christopher Ford – chair of the People’s Maps Commission – unveiled the commission’s final recommendations for new voting districts.
Ford says that one of the main goals of the Commission was to provide citizens with the opportunity to give input on redistricting. The Commission has spent roughly a year soliciting feedback from communities across the state.
Chairman Ford stated, “Our commission has held Wisconsinites as the foremost authorities throughout our process as it is they who live in these communities everyday. They work in these communities, they raise their families in these communities, they know the issues inherent to these communities. Yet as we heard from many Wisconsinites, they felt that as though their interests were not reflected in the current maps that they live under. We hope to change that with these maps.”
The Commission was established by Governor Tony Evers last year. Evers created the group to attempt to limit partisan back-and-forth during the state’s redistricting process. The courts have weighed in on every redistricting process going back to the 1960s.
The Republican-controlled legislature released their own set of maps last month — which drew strong criticism from Democrats and voting rights groups. The Republicans’ proposed maps would essentially keep them in power for the next decade — as they’re based largely on the state’s current gerrymandered maps.
Ford says the Commission’s proposals would make more substantial alterations to the current maps. Ford acknowledged that those changes may lead to some “temporary disenfranchisement.”
“Again we attempted to disenfranchise the least amount of people as possible. The current proposition by the current legislature to keep the maps as are the least amount of changes as possible. However, we wanted to make changes where we saw fit to make the opportunities better for the people of the state of Wisconsin. And so, although there is some temporary disenfranchisement we want to fight against permanent disenfranchisement of those individuals,” Ford said.
Debra Cronmiller, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, expressed support for the Commission and its recommendations.
She said, “We were delighted to see that the Commission was formed; that the Commission embraced a number of best practices that the League of Women Voters all across the nation had supported. Which is a process that is transparent, that is replete with public input, that is responsive to the will of the voters.”
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a redistricting watchdog project, gave both the Commission’s Assembly and Senate maps an overall grade of A. They also stated that future elections for the Assembly and Senate would be significantly more competitive than they are currently.
“So toward that end we are hopeful that there’s a compare and contrast set of maps to what the Legislature put forward. Those maps being analyzed by those same think tanks and getting grades of F,” Cronmiller stated.
Governor Evers said that the bill to adopt the Commission’s maps was ready to go.
Evers said, “The bill is right here, right now it’s ready to be introduced and considered. And there’s not a single excuse I’ve heard any Republican give as to why they won’t take these up, not one.”
Republicans in the legislature are under no obligation to take up the People’s Maps Commission’s recommendations. But, Governor Evers has said that he will veto the Republicans’ current plans unless significant changes are made.
The current Legislative session adjourns next week, and the maps need to be in place by March 1st.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the maps will likely be drawn by either the Wisconsin Supreme Court or a U.S. District Court.
Image Courtesy: Karoliina Bursian / WORT News