Gov. Evers vetoes Republican legislators’ maps proposal

By: - January 30, 2024 2:58 pm

Gov. Tony Evers delivering a video message about his decision to veto legislative maps passed by Republican lawmakers. (Screenshot | @GovEvers)

Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday vetoed legislative maps passed by Republican lawmakers last week, setting up the state Supreme Court to make the decision over what the state’s voting districts will look like in this year’s elections. 

Republican lawmakers had hastily introduced and passed the maps, hoping to interrupt the Court’s process before the body’s new liberal majority could select among the maps submitted by parties in a lawsuit. Lawmakers attached the proposal as an amendment to a bill that would change how the state’s maps are drawn without holding a public hearing on the district lines. The Republicans said they were slightly amending the maps Evers had submitted to the Court, arguing they were making them more fair with little tweaks. 

However, Democrats claimed that Republicans were actually moving district lines in order to protect their incumbents from being put into more competitive districts or being forced to run in primary races, with Democratic lawmakers calling it a continuation of the partisan gerrymander that has defined the state’s politics for the last decade. 

On Tuesday, Evers said he was vetoing the maps because the state’s voters deserve districts that are more fair and more responsive to their decisions. 

“Wisconsinites don’t want Republican or Democrat maps because Wisconsin isn’t a red or blue state — we’re a purple state, and our maps should reflect that basic fact,” Evers said in a video message. “Wisconsinites deserve maps that are fair, responsive, and reflect the will of the people, and my promise to the people of Wisconsin is that I will always fight for fair maps — I will not accept anything less. It’s about doing the right thing, and it’s as simple as that.”

Evers added in the message that Republicans drawing maps in order to keep themselves in power “entrenches” the partisan gerrymander rather than ending it. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said in a statement the veto was about handing the decision to the Court’s liberal majority. 

“I am disappointed but not surprised by Governor Evers’ veto. His claim that the maps he proposed were, ‘responsive to the will of the people, avoided partisan bias and increased competitive legislation seats,’ fell completely apart by a 0.3% change to stop a few politically vindictive incumbent pairings,” Vos said. “By signing, he would have gotten 99.7% of the maps he’s proposed in court. This was never about fair maps. His action today only solidifies his trust in the Wisconsin Supreme Court to give him even more partisan, gerrymandered maps for Democrats — the very thing the court’s newest justice promised on the campaign trail while receiving record-level Democratic Party campaign donations.”

For months, Republicans have alleged the Court is actually aiming to hand a legislative majority to Democrats because the party supported their election campaigns. 

Late last year, the Court ruled in a 4-3 decision that the state’s maps are unconstitutional and began the process of creating new maps. The Court invited the parties involved in the lawsuit to submit their own proposals and hired two independent consultants to assess the maps and advise the Court on its selection. 

Seven maps were submitted, with proposals from Republican lawmakers and the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty submitting maps that retained the strong advantage Republicans have held in the Legislature. The map from the lawmakers was not much different from the one the Court had already declared unconstitutional while the WILL map fixed those defects and lessened the Republican advantage slightly. 

The two maps from Republicans and their aligned groups, they say, reflect the state’s political geography. Conservatives have argued that Democratic voters are concentrated in urban centers while Republican voters are spread across the more rural parts of the state, making it likely that Republicans win more districts. 

Maps from other groups draw district lines to make the divide between Democratic and Republican leaning districts much more even. Statistical analyses of the proposals using aggregations of previous election results have reached varying conclusions on the effect of the maps, however they have largely found the maps from Evers, Law Forward (the law firm representing the voters who brought the initial lawsuit), a group of academics and Senate Democrats would be much closer to a 50-50 divide between the two parties. 

The Court’s consultants have until Feb. 1 to submit a report evaluating the map proposals. The consultants could recommend that one of the proposals be chosen, suggest edits to proposals or come up with their own map. Maps can be assessed using a variety of metrics, including partisan lean, the number of districts that would likely host “competitive” elections and compactness, among other measures. 

Following an event on Tuesday, Evers told reporters he believes whatever map the Court chooses, it should increase the number of competitive legislative races across the state. 

“All’s I know is that the maps I vetoed would not be good for the people of Wisconsin,” Evers said. “How this plays out in the Supreme Court, I have no idea what that’s going to be. I hope it’s going to be my maps or something similar. It’s important to make sure that people have, you know, good maps and make sure that you have competitive races.”

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.

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