Governor Evers Vetoes Redistricting Bills, Setting Up Court Battles

On November 18, Governor Tony Evers (D) vetoed Senate Bills (SB) 621 and 622, meaning that Wisconsin’s political maps for the next ten years will likely be set by the Wisconsin Supreme Court or a panel of federal judges. The governor announced the action in a press release and sent a veto message to the Legislature explaining his decision. He also released a video message addressing Wisconsinites on the issue. Earlier in the week, Gov. Evers sent a letter to legislative leaders asking for the bills to be presented to him; he received them the following day.

SB 621 and 622 contained proposals for new state legislative and congressional district maps drafted by Republican leaders in the Wisconsin Legislature. We previously covered the Legislature’s release of the proposals here and the floor and committee votes on the bills here. By law, the state must implement new political maps once every ten years following the U.S. Census.

The Senate passed the bills on Monday, November 8, while the Assembly concurred in the measures the following Thursday. Earlier this year, Gov. Evers appointed his own advisory body, the “People’s Maps Commission,” which recently released its final report and draft maps. Those maps were also put to a vote by the Legislature and were rejected by all Republican legislators and some Democrats.

The governor’s veto message for SB 621 and 622 accuses Republican leadership of “gerrymandering,” designing the maps to “undemocratically serve the politicians who draft[ed] them.” Gov. Evers has indicated he will support the maps proposed by the People’s Maps Commission in court.

To that end, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an order the day before the governor’s veto laying out a timeline for its decision in the redistricting case. The suit was filed preemptively as an original action in anticipation of the governor and Legislature failing to reach an agreement. The order indicates that the court may conduct hearings and oral arguments on the issues in the case for up to four days.

First, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will rule on or around November 30 on three initial questions in the case:

  • What state and federal laws the justices should consider in evaluating or creating new maps?
  • Should the justices use a “least-change” approach as advocated by GOP lawmakers?
  • Is the partisan makeup of the districts a valid factor to consider?

The deadline for parties to file maps and supporting materials for the justices to consider will be December 15. Any maps proposed to the court will have to comply with its November 30 decision on the questions above.

Also on November 17, a panel of three federal judges extended its stay in a similar lawsuit over redistricting in Wisconsin. The panel first issued the stay in October, pending action from Wisconsin’s Legislature, governor, and high court, and has now extended it until December 6, when the panel will reevaluate whether to move towards a trial.