Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced plans Tuesday to pursue an Iowa-style redistricting model, backtracking on past threats to impeach Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz.
Assembly Republicans’ proposal, unveiled at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, would task the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and a bipartisan coalition with drawing legislative district maps. The move would sidestep a ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which currently has a 4-3 liberal majority.
Vos initially demanded Protasiewicz recuse herself from redistricting cases and threatened to impeach her if she failed to do so, citing Protasiewicz’s prior statements that Wisconsin’s current Republican-drawn maps were “rigged” during her campaign. Vos’ threats triggered widespread outrage from Democrats, who launched a $4 million advertising campaign against Republican impeachment threats.
Vos softened on impeachment threats in the days leading up to Tuesday’s redistricting announcement.
“We can both admit that maybe we were wrong, and now we have to stand up and say this is a better process moving forward,” Vos told reporters Tuesday.
Despite Vos hailing the redistricting proposal as a nonpartisan effort, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers deemed the initiative “bogus” in a press release Tuesday afternoon.
“With the possibility that fair maps and nonpartisan redistricting may be coming to Wisconsin whether they like it or not, 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.
Tuesday’s proposal is “virtually similar” to Iowa’s nonpartisan redistricting model, according to an LRB memo obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Under the proposal, LRB-drawn maps would then be sent to the Legislature for approval without the chance to make amendments to district lines. If the Legislature backs the bill, it would be sent to Gov. Tony Evers for final approval. If either rejected the maps, the process would restart and the LRB would redraft maps.
However, if the Legislature or Evers failed to advance the LRB proposal twice, the third draft from the LRB would be subject to amendments from the Republican-controlled Legislature, after which it would be sent to Gov. Tony Evers.
Democrats put forth a similar redistricting proposal in 2019 that Republicans swiftly denied. The proposal would have required the Legislative Reference Bureau to draw bipartisan maps and report to a five-member committee that consists of two Democrats, two Republicans and a fifth member chosen by the other four members of the board who would serve as chairman.
The redistricting effort will begin in October if the new bill is passed in September, according to Vos.
Vos said Assembly lawmakers will take up the GOP redistricting proposal as soon as Thursday.
Ava Menkes is the state news editor at The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple stories about Wisconsin politics and written in-depth about nurses unions and youth voter turnout. Follow her on Twitter at @AvaMenkes.