Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order Monday creating a commission to draw new legislative maps following this year’s census without elected officials, lobbyists or consultants.
Instead of lawmakers, the People’s Maps Commission will be comprised of members from Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts, members from communities of interest and experts in nonpartisan redistricting.
The Commission would also hold hearings in each of Wisconsin’s congressional districts to provide information on the redistricting process, as well as gather testimony and evidence from the public.
After the data from the 2020 Census is in, the Commission will prepare maps free from partisan bias and advantage to be sent to the Wisconsin State Legislature to vote on.
Evers has previously said the current maps — drawn by Republican lawmakers in 2011 who signed agreements pledging secrecy — are so partisan that some lawmakers may have felt they can ignore issues popular with constituents without recourse.
“The people should choose their elected officials, not the other way around,” Evers said. “And when it comes to the integrity of the process and the fairness of the maps, Wisconsin must look to the people — not politicians — to assist in drawing maps that fairly and accurately represent our state.”
The movement for nonpartisan redistricting has gained traction throughout Wisconsin: 50 out of 72 counties have passed resolutions or referenda supporting nonpartisan redistricting. Portage County will hold a referendum on the ballot this April.
Rep. Robyn Vining, D-Wauwatosa, who helped author a Fair Maps proposal last year, thanked Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in support of fair maps.
“The American value of frequent and fair elections is not capable of holding these legislators accountable without fair maps,” Vining said.
Republican leaders have already denounced the commission created by Evers.
Under Wisconsin law, the boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts are drawn by the legislature, with the governor having veto power. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he felt Evers’ proposal is “unconstitutional.”
“It's still the responsibility of the Legislature to draw the maps every 10 years based on the census,” Fitzgerald said. “The Legislature has to draw the maps whether he likes it or not.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, echoed the sentiments of Fitzgerald.
“He can form whatever kind of fake, phony, partisan process he wants to create, but I have no doubt in the end we will do it the way we always have, which is to follow the constitution,” Vos said.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul said the commission would be legal.
Either way, Republicans who control the Legislature will still go through their process of drawing the maps themselves and reject any maps drawn by the commission. Vos stated he feels this is a political move from Evers.
“This is just Democrats rallying their base,” Vos said. “This is not something that actually has a huge appeal to anybody outside of the Democrat activists.”
If Evers and the Legislature can’t agree on a set of maps, the issues will likely be sent to the State courts to decide which maps to use.