MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s powerful Republican Assembly leader said Tuesday that he hopes the liberal-controlled state Supreme Court adopts new constitutional legislative boundary maps, even as he slammed proposals from Democrats as “a political gerrymander” and threatened an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also said Republicans have approached Democrats about passing new maps in the Legislature, rather than have the court approve new ones, but “we have not gotten a warm reception to that idea.”
“We are ready, willing and able to try to engage in that process,” Vos said at a news conference.
Wisconsin is a purple state, with four of the past six presidential elections decided by less than a percentage point. But under legislative maps first enacted by Republicans in 2011 and then again in 2022 with few changes, the GOP has grown its majorities to 64-35 in the Assembly and 22-11 in the state Senate.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the maps passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2021, leading the then-conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court to adopt the maps that are currently in use. The court has since shifted to liberal control, and it threw out the maps last month.
In a 4-3 ruling, the high court said the current maps were unconstitutional because not all districts were comprised of a contiguous territory. Some districts included areas that weren’t connected to the whole.
The court said the Legislature can adopt new maps, which would have to be signed by Evers, but that if it doesn’t, the court would adopt maps that would be in effect for the November election. The state elections commission has said new maps must be in place by March 15.
Vos said he was open to having the Legislature vote on maps, but he said Democrats are counting on the state Supreme Court to draw the lines. Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Greta Neubauer did not respond to a message seeking comment.
With the process in the Legislature apparently stalled, it is moving ahead in the court.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers, along with Evers, a conservative Wisconsin law firm, a liberal law firm that brought the redistricting lawsuit, a group of mathematics professors and a redistricting consultant submitted new proposed maps on Friday.
Most of the maps would maintain Republican majorities but reduce the number of seats they would hold.
Vos dismissed the maps submitted by Democrats, saying they would move too many boundary lines and force incumbent lawmakers to run against one another. He called them “nothing more than a political gerrymander.”
The submitted maps are being reviewed now by two consultants hired by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. They will submit their report by Feb. 1, which will include their recommended maps.
“My hope is that the court, in any fair reading, rejects the maps that were submitted which have large partisan bias and either has maps drawn by the professors, if they go that route, or ultimately we’ll have to go to the (U.S.) Supreme Court and demonstrate the huge political nature of what they’ve done, ” Vos said.
When asked when such an appeal would be filed or what it would argue, Vos declined to say.
“Our goal is not to rush to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Vos said. “We want to try and have a map that meets the constitution.”
Republicans have indicated that they would argue that there were due process violations. Vos has also suggested that the appeal would argue that liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz, who called the current maps “rigged” and “unfair” during her run for office, should not have heard the case. She sided with the three other liberal justices in ordering new maps.
Scott Bauer, The Associated Press