Faced with a state Supreme Court no longer controlled by conservatives, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos is rushing through a way to replace gerrymandered maps—without public input.
The most powerful Republican in Wisconsin said Tuesday he would support changing the way legislative and congressional district maps are drawn—after 12 years of GOP lawmakers drawing maps for themselves that were far out of proportion to their actual level of support among statewide voters.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) unveiled a plan that he said is based on a nationally regarded model used in Iowa that has a nonpartisan legislative agency drawing new maps rather than elected politicians.
Vos said the plan would be voted on by the full Assembly on Thursday, apparently without the benefit of a committee hearing for the public to provide input.
“If you’re sick of the arguing, if you’re sick of the vitriol, if you want people to work together, this is a better way for us to do it,” Vos said at a news conference where he announced the surprising change of heart.
There has been support expressed for the Iowa model since before Republicans took control of the Legislature in the 2010 elections, but Vos has consistently rejected the model before today—and acknowledged it as an alternative to a possible impeachment fight over newly-elected state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz.
The April win by Protasiewicz flipped majority control of the court from conservative to liberal for the first time in 15 years. Despite her 11-point victory, Protasiewicz was facing the prospect of impeachment from Republicans who were demanding she recuse herself from legal challenges to the current Republican-drawn maps.
Wisconsin Republicans were receiving national blowback to the prospect of impeaching a justice who had not yet heard a single case. On Tuesday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said its survey of the 64 Republican legislators had found none who would commit to voting yes on articles of impeachment.
“We would turn this over to a bunch of well-meaning private citizens,” Vos said in a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, referring to the Legislative Reference Bureau. “These are people who do this for a living. They draft bills for a living that are part of the legislative process.”
Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) called the move a stunt.
“Speaker Vos and the gerrymandered Republican majority have had more than a decade to bring a nonpartisan redistricting bill to the floor,” Spreitzer said, “and have refused at every opportunity. It is disingenuous for Vos and the gerrymandered Republican majority to pretend to support nonpartisan redistricting now—when they are on the verge of having their gerrymander thrown out by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.”
While the Assembly takes up that matter, Senate Republicans on Thursday have said they will vote on a motion they say could result in the firing of Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission. However, the commission has not sent anything to the Senate for action—something that would require a majority vote of at least four of the six commission members. Wolfe’s outster has been demanded by some supporters of former President Donald Trump, despite the absence of any evidence of election irregularities in 2020.
The Republican attacks on both Wolfe and Protasiewicz are seen as attempts to nullify both elections and overrule the will of Wisconsin voters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.