MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans were scrambling Wednesday to come up with new legislative district maps that might win the approval of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and head off the state Supreme Court from drawing lines that could be even worse for the GOP.
The liberal-controlled state Supreme Court last month tossed the current Republican-drawn maps as unconstitutional. The court said it would draw new maps unless the Legislature and Evers agreed to ones first. The political stakes are huge for both sides in the presidential battleground state, where Republicans have had a firm grip on the Legislature since 2011 even as Democrats have won statewide elections, including for governor in 2018 and 2022.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who has long argued for keeping the current lines the same, said Tuesday night that he would happily pass maps proposed by Evers. The state Senate approved Evers’ maps earlier Tuesday, but with changes that would have fewer incumbent Republicans facing other incumbents in new districts.
Evers would almost certainly veto that altered Senate-approved map. But he has not said whether he would sign into law the exact map he asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to approve. Evers has not commented on the ongoing negotiations, which were happening before and after he delivered his State of the State speech Tuesday night.
“Neither the governor nor our office have had any conversations with any legislative Republicans about this circus today,” Evers’s spokesperson, Britt Cudaback, posted on X Tuesday night.
Vos on Wednesday showed The Associated Press text messages he had with Evers on Tuesday, asking the governor to talk. Evers texted Vos back that it didn’t look promising. Vos said he was reaching out again on Wednesday and speaking with Assembly Democrats.
The Legislature is racing to pass maps ahead of the Feb. 1 deadline for consultants hired by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to submit their recommendations for new boundary lines. They were reviewing six maps submitted separately by Evers, Republicans, Democrats and others. They could recommend one of those maps, or their own. It would then be up to the liberal-controlled court to order the maps, unless the Legislature and Evers can agree first.
The Assembly convened again Wednesday but immediately broke for closed-door caucuses. It was unclear when or if they would vote on a maps proposal.
Republicans have a 22-11 supermajority in the Senate and a 64-35 majority in the Assembly, two seats shy of a supermajority. They have built their majorities under maps they first drew in 2011.
Under the Evers map, Republicans would have a 53-46 majority in the Assembly, and a 17-16 edge in the Senate, based on an analysis by Marquette University Law School research fellow John D. Johnson. His analysis used a statistical model to predict the results of the 2022 state legislative election had they taken place in the newly proposed districts.
Democrats would fare better under other submitted maps the court is considering, which is fueling the Republican push to adopt the Evers maps.
“We would basically be giving Gov. Evers a huge win,” Vos said Tuesday. “Adopting his maps, stopping the lawsuit seems like something to me we could agree on, but I’m waiting on Gov. Evers to get back to us.”
The new maps would be in place for November’s election, when every Assembly seat and half of the Senate seats will be up for grabs. Vos said he was confident that Republicans could win under the Evers maps.
It’s unclear whether Republicans would allow the unaltered Evers maps to be voted on in the Senate. The maps would have to be approved by the Senate and Assembly, and be signed by Evers, to take effect.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said Tuesday that Evers’ maps were “clearly a partisan attack on us.”
He did not reply to a message Wednesday asking whether the Senate would vote on Evers’ maps.
Typically, Republicans in the Senate do not allow any bills to come up for a vote unless enough Republicans support it to pass it.
The legislative machinations in Wisconsin come as litigation is ongoing in more than dozen states over U.S. House and state legislative districts that were enacted after the 2020 census. National Democrats last week asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take up a challenge to the state’s congressional districts, but the court has yet to decide whether to take the case.
Scott Bauer, The Associated Press