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Governor Vetoes Wisconsin GOP’s Last-Ditch Effort to Keep Gerrymandered Maps

“The people of Wisconsin have lived under some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country for a decade,” Evers said.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks at Earth Rider Brewery on January 25, 2024, in Superior, Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a redistricting bill passed by Republicans in the state legislature, describing the legislation as a last-ditch effort by GOP lawmakers to ensure many in their ranks could remain in gerrymandered districts.

The action by Evers means that legislative maps will now likely be drawn by the state Supreme Court, which overturned previous maps drawn by Republicans that many critics have lambasted as the most gerrymandered in the country.

Last month, that court ruled that Republicans’ proposed state legislative districts violated the state Constitution, which requires boundaries to be contiguous. Instead, the maps that were drawn included several “islands” separate from the main parts of their districts. One of the most notable districts in violation of the constitutional rule was Assembly District 47, which has several such islands.

In its ruling, the state Supreme Court said that it would give the state legislature and the governor time to try to create a map together. But with Evers’s latest veto, that’s unlikely to happen.

Evers submitted a map to Republicans that he claimed produced a fairer outcome — indeed, while it made things more competitive in the state, Evers’s map would also likely result in Republican majorities in both chambers of the legislature, an analysis showed. But Republicans rejected the map because it would pit some GOP incumbents against each other and lower their majorities. Instead, they proposed a map, based partly on Evers’s, that kept those lawmakers from having to compete.

Evers rejected the revised maps, stating in a video message that Republicans’ changes were still a gerrymander and that maps shouldn’t consider where incumbents are living.

“The people of Wisconsin have lived under some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country for a decade. … These maps [from Republicans] are more of the same,” Evers said, adding that the revised maps they drew were only “to help make sure Republican-gerrymandered incumbents get to keep their seats.”

“Folks, that’s just more gerrymandering,” Evers said, directing his comments to Wisconsin residents.

Indeed, map drawing by Republicans has noticeably favored their party, resulting in a state legislature that is not representative of the voting populace. Currently, nearly two-thirds of the seats in the state Assembly are held by Republicans, even though, in the same election cycle, Evers won reelection to the governorship by defeating his GOP opponent by 51.2 percent of the vote to 47.8 percent.

Republican Assembly Majority Leader Rep. Robin Vos (R) decried Evers’s veto, claiming in a press release that his action would result in “partisan, gerrymandered maps for Democrats.” But other lawmakers and groups across the state disagreed.

“Republicans are the least credible people in the state when it comes to redistricting,” state Sen. Dianne Hesselbein (D) said, “and they have never been serious about finding a nonpartisan redistricting solution.”

“The GOP map vetoed by Governor Evers today was a desperate attempt from Republicans to delay fair maps and keep their gerrymander in place,” said Mike Browne, deputy director of A Better Wisconsin Together, a progressive organization in the state. “State Republicans have now shown us time and time again that they will do whatever it takes to protect their political power over what is best for Wisconsinites.”

“We applaud the governor for using his veto power to stop this latest attempt from Republicans to dodge accountability at the ballot box,” Browne added.

Following Evers’s veto of Republicans’ altered maps, the state Supreme Court will now likely decide how legislative boundaries are drawn. The court has already hired two redistricting experts to help justices sort the matter, and has asked interested parties to submit their own maps for consideration. A total of six maps have been submitted by the governor, legislative Republicans and Democrats, a group of mathematicians, a right-wing group called Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, and Democratic voters who originally sued to have the old maps tossed out.

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