Republicans belatedly approve Gov. Evers’ proposed new maps. Dems say it’s a trap.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the legislative maps as unconstitutional—and vowed to impose their own maps unless the Legislature and governor worked together on their own new boundaries for Senate and Assembly districts.

By Pat Kreitlow

February 13, 2024

After 12 years of gerrymandering Assembly and Senate districts, GOP lawmakers say they’re ready to embrace Evers’ proposal instead of whatever the state Supreme Court could impose.

Republican legislators are putting on the appearance of being symbolically dragged kicking and screaming toward adopting new boundaries for Assembly and Senate districts, but Democrats warn it could be political theater—a trap that might prevent fair maps from replacing the current gerrymandered borders in November.

The Senate and Assembly voted with unprecedented speed Tuesday afternoon to adopt maps submitted by Gov. Tony Evers, who has previously promised to sign them into law. If he does, it would bring to a halt a process in the Wisconsin Supreme Court to implement and impose maps, likely on behalf of the four progressive justices and over the objection of the three conservatives on the court.

The court ruled, 4-3, in December that the current maps were unconstitutional and said new maps would be created in one of two ways: by the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature working together or by the justices choosing from among several options reviewed by two consultants, including the Evers maps. 

Few believed the GOP legislators would work with Evers, after 12 years of writing and defending maps that gave Republicans a massive majority that did not reflect their actual level of public support in a closely divided state where Democrats have won most of the recent statewide elections. While some Republicans said the Evers proposal would be better than what the court might impose, some Democrats said they foresee political mischief.

“Legislative Republicans are the least trustworthy people in the state when it comes to redistricting,” Senate Democratic leaders said in a joint statement. “We will not participate in Republicans’ shady political schemes to maintain their manufactured majority.”

“If passed, the GOP will appeal to the 7th Circuit,” wrote US Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Black Earth) on social media last week, referring to the Court of Appeals. “Bad maps would continue in WI this fall. The Supreme Court in WI clearly has this under their jurisdiction now. Don’t take the bait!”

“The chief judge for the 7th Circuit is Diane Sykes, a conservative justice who was on former President Donald Trump’s short list for the Supreme Court and contributor to the controversial right-wing legal group The Federalist Society,” said a post by Democracy Docket, a progressive group tracking voting rights and related cases. 

Progressive critics see the move as a way to get the case to the US Supreme Court, dominated by right-wing justices who could find fault with Evers’ maps or simply prevent the maps from being ready in time for use in November. Conservatives are already looking at the next Wisconsin Supreme Court election in April of next year as a way to regain the majority they held for 15 years until last year’s election of Justice Janet Protasiewicz.

Republican legislators tried to paint Tuesday’s vote as their least bad option.

“I think our members realize we’ve been dealt a very difficult hand,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).

“It was a matter of choosing to be stabbed, shot, poisoned or led to the guillotine,” said Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine)in a statement. “We chose to be stabbed, so we can live to fight another day.”


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.


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