Wisconsin Republican lawmakers, in a surprise move on Tuesday, reversed their long-held position and proposed a nonpartisan redistricting plan they want to enact ahead of the 2024 election to preempt the liberal-controlled state Supreme Court from tossing the current GOP-drawn maps.
The move comes as Wisconsin justices are considering two Democratic-backed lawsuits seeking to toss the Republican maps, first enacted in 2011, that are among the most gerrymandered in the country and have helped Republicans increase their majority.
Republicans have long opposed plans put forward by Democrats to enact a nonpartisan redistricting process. But now, faced with the likelihood that the state Supreme Court was going to throw out their maps ahead of the 2024 election, Republicans are proposing enacting a new system modeled after neighboring Iowa.
“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,” Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said at a news conference.
The Assembly was going to vote on the measure Thursday. It would then head to the Senate, where Republicans hold a 22-11 majority. If approved there, it would then go to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
Neither Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu nor Evers immediately responded to requests for comment.
Vos said the plan offered a way to avoid two pending redistricting lawsuits and a possible impeachment fight. He and other Republicans have floated the possibility of impeachment if newly elected Justice Janet Protasiewicz doesn't recuse from the redistricting cases because she called the current maps “unfair” and “rigged” and accepted nearly $10 million in campaign donations from the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
Protasiewicz's win in April flipped majority control of the court from conservative to liberal for the first time in 15 years.
Republican support for a nonpartisan redistricting plan came days after the Wisconsin Democratic Party announced a $4 million campaign to pressure Republicans to back down from impeaching Protasiewicz. A six-figure TV ad buy targeting 20 Republican lawmakers to run on Fox News was announced hours before Vos announced his plan.