Wisconsin redistricting: Governor tells Republicans to start over

Gov. Tony Evers

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers told Republican lawmakers to start over on their redistricting plans, saying Thursday they will "have to do better" if they expect him to sign the proposals that would solidify the majorities already in place.

The GOP-proposed maps are largely based on the current lines drawn by Republicans a decade ago, districts that Democrats have assailed as unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

Republicans unveiled their legislative and congressional maps on Wednesday and scheduled a public hearing for Oct. 28 before voting on them in early November. Evers, a Democrat, would have to sign the bills to make the maps law, but he made clear that would not happen with the current proposals. He called for the public hearing to be delayed.

"It’s unconscionable and insulting to the people of this state, frankly, that Republicans think they can pass another set of gerrymandered maps modeled after the same gerrymandered ones we’ve had for a decade," Evers said in a statement. "Wisconsinites won’t stand for it, and I won’t either — it’s just as simple as that."

Republican legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, have not returned messages seeking comment. When they released the maps, Vos and LeMahieu said they were fair and drawn after considering input from the public and a map-drawing commission created by Evers.

"Republicans will have to do better than this if they expect me to sign either of these bills — they need to go back to the drawing board," Evers said. "We’ve seen time after time how Republicans have tried abusing their power to cheat and predetermine our elections, and they’re doing it again now."

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Republicans hold a 61-38 majority in the Assembly and a 21-12 advantage in the Senate. Republicans also hold five of the state’s eight congressional districts. The proposed maps would largely keep those legislative districts in safe Republican control and make a western Wisconsin congressional district more favorable for the GOP.

Courts have long been expected to ultimately draw the maps, even though Evers and Republicans publicly said they could reach a deal. The last three times redistricting was done in Wisconsin under divided government, in 2002, 1992 and 1982, a federal court drew the maps.

There are lawsuits pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and in federal court. Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to dismiss the federal lawsuit. They want their case to proceed in the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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