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Wisconsin GOP pitches voter suppression in disguise — and gets denied

Republicans are backing a bill that would retain their power over redistricting as lawsuits threaten to give that power to the state's liberal Supreme Court.


Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers peeps game, to use a turn of phrase. Which is to say, he's fully aware there’s a scheme afoot when it comes to the state GOP’s redistricting efforts. 

That’s why Evers preemptively shot down a plan Republicans trotted out on Tuesday that would give the Wisconsin Legislature the power to approve gerrymandered congressional maps, as the state Supreme Court is poised to throw them out.

A new bill backed by Wisconsin GOP leadership would allow a nonpartisan panel to handle redistricting for the state but leave ultimate approval of those maps to the state Legislature, which is currently (and firmly) under GOP control. 

The plan doesn’t smell right to Evers and other Democrats.

“Republicans, who’ve been ramping up their efforts to interfere in Wisconsin elections, are now demanding Legislature-picked and Legislature-approved map drawers for legislative districts,” the governor tweeted Tuesday. “That’s bogus.” 

At first glance, the plan may seem like a boon to liberals since it would leave Republicans with a bit less power over the districting process than they currently have. But it would also prevent Republicans from losing some power in the near future. And that’s why context matters.

Conservatives recently lost their majority in the Wisconsin Supreme Court — that is, the body set to rule on two liberal-backed lawsuits that could throw out the state's current maps (which have been rigged in Republicans’ favor).

Or, as The Associated Press put it

Republicans have long opposed plans put forward by Democrats to enact a nonpartisan redistricting process. But now, faced with the likelihood that the liberal-controlled state Supreme Court was going to throw out their maps ahead of the 2024 election, Republicans proposed enacting a new system modeled after neighboring Iowa.

Ever since August, when Janet Protasiewicz won a hotly contested race for state Supreme Court justice that swung the court in liberals’ favor, Republicans have tried their damnedest to stave off the impact of her victory. Protasiewicz ran as a proponent of abortion rights and fair districting, and Republicans have threatened to impeach her — before she even issues a ruling — over her past remarks about the state’s gerrymandered maps being “rigged.” Robin Vos, the Republican leader of Wisconsin’s State Assembly, put a finer point on the ploy at play. Vos, who voiced her support for creating a new redistricting board this week, took steps toward impeaching Protasiewicz on Wednesday

As for the Wisconsin GOP’s about-face on the nonpartisan redistricting panel — which, again, would preserve some of their power over redistricting — local Republicans aren’t even hiding that this is a matter of political opportunism. 

When a user on social media platform X suggested Republican state Rep. Ron Tusler's change of heart was he was “getting rolled,” Tusler gave a frank reply. 

“Perhaps,” he responded. “Why do you think we are all of a sudden in favor of something that we were against?”

The answer seems quite clear: desperation and shamelessness.