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Milwaukee praise for new legislative redistricting law and some unanswered questions

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks at Monday's bill signing at the State Capitol in Madison. Behind him are some Democratic politicians and citizen members of The Fair Maps Coalition.
Chuck Quirmbach
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks at Monday's bill signing at the State Capitol in Madison. Behind him are some Democratic politicians and citizen members of The Fair Maps Coalition.

A Milwaukee-area supporter of new legislative district maps says she’s "thrilled" that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) has signed a redistricting bill. But there could be more legal and political decisions about redistricting in the coming days, weeks —and years.

Evers signed the redistricting measure Monday at the State Capitol, surrounded by members of the citizens group, The Fair Maps Coalition.

“Folks, it’s a new day in Wisconsin (whoops), and today is a beautiful day for democracy," Evers said to cheers.

The bill signing comes after months of legal battles and years of complaints that Republican-drawn maps over the last few decades have helped the GOP roll up big margins in the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly, even though many statewide elections in Wisconsin are very close.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court threw out the 2022 legislative maps two months ago but said it would OK new maps if GOP lawmakers and Evers reached an agreement. Almost exclusively with votes from Republicans who said they didn’t want the court drawing new maps, lawmakers approved maps submitted by Evers last week. Then, on Monday, the governor kept a promise to sign the measure.

Cheryl Maranto was in the jubilant crowd at the bill signing. She’s with North Shore Fair Maps, which is part of the statewide coalition. “I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled. It is a fair map and what we fought for," Maranto told WUWM.

Gov. Evers signs the redistricting legislation into law.
Chuck Quirmbach
Gov. Evers signs the redistricting legislation into law.

But the bill signing still leaves some questions.

First, Republicans last week tried to delay using the new maps until this fall. Democrats said that was because Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Racine County) might face a recall election in a couple of months. There’s also a special election coming up in heavily Democratic Milwaukee County to replace former Sen. Lena Taylor, who Evers recently appointed to a county judgeship.

Evers says he’ll ask the State Supreme Court to rule that the new maps are in effect right away,

“There definitely will be an election sometime soon, I hope. We have a vacancy now, and we have to have it filled, and that vacancy may cause another vacancy. So, we have to get that figured out, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court should be able to help us with that," Evers said in response to a question from WUWM.

Two Milwaukee Democratic members of the State Assembly — Dora Drake and LaKeshia Myers — have announced they’re running for the Senate seat.

There’s also still a question of whether the state court will agree to hear a liberal group’s request to take another look at Wisconsin’s Congressional district lines. Evers says he hopes the justices do so.

“Yes, that would be preferable," he told reporters.

The Wisconsin House delegation is currently six Republicans and two Democrats. But Democrats are hoping for competitive races in far southeast and west central Wisconsin. Also, perhaps in the Green Bay area, where incumbent Republican Mike Gallagher says he won’t run for reelection.

In the state legislature, analysts say the new maps mean Democrats are likely to pick up seats. Evers takes it an additional step and promises a new redistricting model.

“If the people of Wisconsin vote to send Democratic majorities to Madison this November, I tell you right now, one of the first orders of business in our first 100 days together will be enacting a fair, independent, and non-partisan redistricting system in Wisconsin," Evers said to cheers so loud they drowned out his last few words.

That independent system would likely be more good news for Cheryl Maranto of North Shore Fair Maps. “I have truly come to believe, and it took me a while to get here, that gerrymandering is a bi-partisan disease. You know, it’s putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. I think most politicians, when it comes down to it, cannot resist the temptation to draw maps to their advantage," Maranto says.

Republicans say Evers won’t get those Democratic majorities. In a written statement, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) says, “Senate Republicans have won competitive races for twenty years. We don’t plan on stopping now.”

In a statement, Vos says Republicans "will prove that we can win on any maps because we have better policy ideas for Wisconsin."

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