GOP leaders deny “discussion” of redistricting plan

By: - July 30, 2019 9:34 am
Wisconsin State Capitol

Republican leaders in the Assembly and Senate reacted to yesterday’s report in the Wisconsin Examiner about a possible behind-the-scenes plan to redraw Wisconsin’s voting maps without consulting Gov. Tony Evers. Both told Scott Bauer of the Associated Press that they had never “discussed” a plan to redraw Wisconsin’s political maps by joint resolution.

“That approach has never been discussed by Republican leadership, within the GOP caucus, or with outside counsel,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told AP. “This is nothing more than rumor-mongering by Democrat activists in an attempt to fire up their base ahead of the 2020 elections.”

Kit Beyer, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ spokesperson, told Bauer that “a redistricting resolution is not being discussed.”

But neither Vos nor Fitzgerald responded to follow-up questions from AP, or to inquires from the Examiner, about whether they would consider redistricting by joint resolution.

“It would have been much easier for Majority Leader Fitzgerald to have said that neither he nor anyone else in the leadership of the legislature would ever consider trying to use a joint resolution to enact the upcoming redistricting,” said attorney Lester Pines.“He chose not to say that, which speaks volumes.”

Pines, one of the sources quoted in the original Examiner story, said he thought that the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and Republican legislators were planning to overturn a 54-year-old state Supreme Court precedent, which holds that redistricting by joint resolution would violate the state constitution.

Rick Esenberg, the executive director of WILL, told the Examiner that he had heard about the idea of redistricting by joint resolution, but said his organization was not helping to form a plan.

“I was referring to the issue of whether the legislature could proceed by joint resolution,” Esenberg wrote in a follow-up email Tuesday. “I’ve heard that some people believe that. But I have not heard that legislative leadership is actually planning to do it. There is a difference between the two things. As I thought I made clear, WILL has had nothing to do with what the legislative leadership is or is not planning. Lester is flat wrong on that.”

The Fair Elections Project, which advocates for nonpartisan redistricting, was not satisfied with Republican leaders’ denials of discussions.

“The double-talk used by the Speaker and Majority Leader is neither an effective denial nor a promise the people of Wisconsin can count on,” the group responded in a Tuesday press release. “They can put this issue to rest by answering a simple question—will they, under any circumstance, try to pass a legislative district map without the Governor’s signature?”

“What the people of Wisconsin want to see — large bipartisan majorities, in fact—is a public statement that the legislature intends to work with the administration in an open and transparent way to draw the maps in 2021.”

“I think it’s up to the public and the media to keep pressing them until they either admit that this is their strategy or take it off the table completely,”  said Fair Elections’ Sachin Chheda.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Her book "Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers" won the 2022 Studs and Ida Terkel Award from The New Press.