“Nonpartisan” Redistricting or Wisconsin’s New Loophole? The GOP’s Iffy Redistricting Bill Explained

Oh Wisconsin, you’re back at it again. While the Badger State might be famous for its cheese and Packers, lately it seems like political shenanigans should be added to that list. Recent actions from the state’s GOP have more twists and turns than a roller coaster and trust us, this is one wild ride.

To catch everyone up, the Republicans have put forth a shiny new “nonpartisan” redistricting bill. Sounds great on the surface, right? But once you dive into the fine print, you might find it’s not as neutral as it seems.

Let’s rewind. Since 2011, Wisconsin’s GOP has been enjoying an upper hand in the state legislature thanks to some… let’s say ‘creatively’ drawn electoral maps. In fact, in 2020, even when the presidential race in Wisconsin was toe-to-toe, with Biden sneaking past Trump by a mere 20,000 votes, the GOP managed to snatch up 61 seats in a 99-seat state Assembly. By 2022? That number rose to 64. It’s like watching a magic trick where the numbers just don’t add up.

So, with the liberal tide rising after the election of state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz, who gasped and called out the clearly skewed electoral maps, the GOP threatened to impeach her. Why? Well, if she’s out of the picture, she can’t rule against their precious gerrymandered maps. It’s a bit like removing the referee so you can move the goalposts as you please.

But wait, there’s a plot twist! Robin Vos, the State Speaker of the Assembly, decides not to pursue impeachment. Instead, he proposes redistricting reform. At face value, it’s like the villain having a change of heart in a movie. The only problem? The “reformed” bill has some gaping holes.

The GOP’s 2023 version of the bill resembles the nonpartisan “Iowa model”, which on paper, sounds democratic. But when you start digging, you’ll find that while the 2019 version had a failsafe to prevent gerrymandering, this new version doesn’t. In short, it lets the state legislature amend the maps themselves without any oversight, simply by rejecting the commission’s proposals twice. It’s a bit like letting a kid correct his own homework – we all know how that would go.

Philip Rocco, a political science professor, put it aptly: it’s an “Iowa style” redistricting plan but with “Wisconsin style” escape routes. The Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition, a nonpartisan voting rights group, and several other voices in the state are calling out this move for what it is: a thinly veiled attempt to maintain a skewed status quo.

In the end, it seems that this new “nonpartisan” proposal might just be another chapter in the ongoing saga of Wisconsin politics. While Vos says he’s open to amendments, many in the Badger State are skeptical, and who can blame them? As the saying goes, trust but verify. And in this case, verification might mean taking a magnifying glass to this new bill.