Evers, Kaul get involved in federal redistricting battle

By: - September 13, 2021 2:47 pm
news conference on OxyCodin from Kaul's Facebook page

Attorney General Josh Kaul and Gov. Tony Evers together in May 2019 announcing a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma L.P. over misleading the public on the dangers of OxyContin via DOJ on Facebook.

Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul argued in a motion filed Monday in federal court that Evers, like the Republican-led Legislature, has a right to weigh in on a federal lawsuit over the state’s new legislative maps. 

The lawsuit, which was brought last month by a group of voters represented by a prominent Democratic attorney, seeks to have a federal court declare Wisconsin’s current political maps unconstitutional and draw new ones. 

With state government divided, the battle over redistricting has already been more contentious than in 2011 when Republicans held total control. The current maps have solidified Republican control of the legislative branch for the last decade. Anticipating Evers’ and GOP leadership’s inability to reach a compromise on new maps, three lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court attempting to set up a process to determine the dividing lines for the next ten years. 

In the filing on Monday, Evers — represented by Kaul — asked the court to allow him to join the case. The Legislature has already been allowed to join and requested that the lawsuit be dismissed.

Evers argues that Wisconsin’s constitution gives the governor and Legislature equal roles in the redistricting process. Last year, Evers created the “People’s Maps Commission” to gather input from the public on drawing new maps that best reflect voters’ communities. Republicans have already requested their own input from the public for drawing their own maps. 

“The Commission makes concrete the Governor’s central role in the redistricting process in Wisconsin, well before the Legislature sends him a bill,” Evers’ motion states. “The Commission is the Governor’s way of providing a neutral recommendation to the Legislature, which the Wisconsin Supreme Court recognizes as one of the Governor’s roles in redistricting.”

If Evers and the Legislature can’t reach an agreement, the new maps will likely be drawn by a court. In the federal lawsuits, which may be combined, a panel of judges will decide the case. Evers says his intervention in the case will be to provide the court with possible maps created by his commission and “provide a unique, nonpartisan plan for the Court’s consideration.” 

“The Governor’s intervention at this early date will cause no delay and will result in no prejudice to the parties,” the motion states. “Instead, it will result only in this Court having a fuller picture of what maps are possible and proper under the redistricting criteria as applied to Wisconsin.”

In the two federal lawsuits, the legal wrangling is only just beginning with Evers and the Legislature trying to be admitted. A third lawsuit was filed by a right wing legal firm in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, urging it to agree to draw the new maps. The court has not yet decided if it will accept the case. 

Evers said he’s trying to join the case to protect the interests of Wisconsin voters. 

“I never thought I would be spending a lot of my time as governor protecting our democracy, but it’s clear that with continued attacks on the right to vote, misinformation around the 2020 election, and efforts to gerrymander our maps, this work has never been more important,” Evers said in a statement. “I will continue to fight every day to protect the right of every eligible voter to cast their ballot, to ensure we have fair, free, and secure elections, and to have fair maps in Wisconsin.”


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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.