Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


GOP redistricting proposal raises questions over nonpartisanship

Legislative Reference Bureau may not ensure nonpartisan district maps, experts say
Ahmad Hamid

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, rejected a Republican proposal that suggested the legislature approve new maps drawn by a nonpartisan legislative bureau Sept. 12, according to AP News Wisconsin.

“A Legislature that has now repeatedly demonstrated they will not uphold basic tenets of our democracy — and will bully, threaten, or fire on a whim anyone who happens to disagree with them — cannot be trusted to appoint or oversee someone charged with drawing fair maps,” Evers said in a statement that day.

Under the proposal, the maps would be drawn by the Legislative Reference Bureau, a nonpartisan group employed by the legislature and designated for drafting bills, legislation and drawing redistricting maps. The legislators could vote on the maps, which could then be vetoed by the governor, according to AP News Wisconsin.


Sugar River conservation project will preserve wildlife, improve rural travel destination

This comes as the Wisconsin Supreme Court is seeing a rise in redistricting lawsuits after the election of liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz, according to AP News Wisconsin.

Evers said in his statement these lawsuits are an opportunity for Wisconsin to have fair maps, despite years of gerrymandering from Republicans. He said this is why Republicans are now introducing legislation claiming to promote fair maps.

“Republicans are making a last-ditch effort to retain legislative control by having someone Legislature-picked and Legislature-approved draw Wisconsin’s maps,” Evers said.

Kenneth Mayer, a professor of American politics at the University of Wisconsin, said in an email to The Badger Herald that Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos is presenting this bill because he is worried the State Supreme Court will reject his maps as partisan gerrymandering.

“It’s not a sincere effort to create a new system,” Mayer said. “It’s an effort to change the subject to something other than his threat to impeach Protasiewicz, which is an unprecedented — and, frankly, outrageous — effort to overturn the effect of the April election.”

Republican representatives argued they have always supported nonpartisan redistricting and these maps would promote more objective maps.

Representatives Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) said the bill is based on the “Iowa Model,” which creates a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw the maps.

Senior staff attorney with the State Democracy Research Initiative at the UW Law School Derek Clinger said, according to the Iowa model, the Legislative Reference Bureau would be required to draw maps not favoring either political party. But he said in this case, the legislature removed the restriction against favoring a political party in the proposal for Wisconsin. Clinger said this means there is no prevention against partisan gerrymandering in this bill.

Clinger said, ultimately, passing this bill would not change anything. Since the proposal does not prohibit gerrymandering, Wisconsin would likely end up with the same maps as before.

UW law and policy expert Howard Schweber said, in Iowa, even with the language restricting partisan gerrymandering, it still ended with gerrymandering in favor of the Republicans. It turned a formerly Democratic district into a Republican one after strategically drawing the maps.

Threat of government shutdown presents local challenges

“Everything the Republicans are doing right now is clear,” Schweber said. “And the reason is very straightforward. Everything else flows from that. If you lose control of the legislature, then take an issue about let’s say abortion — you lose the ability to control that issue.”

Schweber said the gerrymander is essential to Republicans in the state because it keeps them in power, and they will do anything to preserve it.

Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) said it is not possible for legitimate or nonpartisan redistricting to exist in the legislature. He said Vos and Republican legislators have consistently resisted attempts to bring a nonpartisan redistricting bill to the floor.

“It is disingenuous for Speaker Vos and the gerrymandered Republican majority to pretend to support nonpartisan redistricting now — when they are on the verge of having their gerrymander thrown out by the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” Spreitzer said in a statement Sept. 12.

Spreitzer said the best way for the state to get fair maps is through the current lawsuits going to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Legislative Republicans are also in the middle of an attempt to impeach Protasiewicz for taking money from the Democratic Party. They also argue she must recuse herself from the lawsuits regarding fair maps because she made comments during her campaign calling them “unfair” and “rigged,” according to AP News Wisconsin.

Gov. Evers designates Sept. 25-29 as GEAR UP week

Schweber said the impeachment, and this bill, are just tactics to avoid fair maps. The Republicans are hoping to regain control of the Supreme Court in the next election in 2025, but for now, they want to delay changes.

The Assembly voted to pass the bill 64-32 Sept. 14, with all Republicans and one Democrat in favor. It now will go to the Senate, which has a 22-11 Republican majority. If it passes in the Senate, it would go to Evers, who could choose to veto it.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *