By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ so-called People’s Maps are so awful even his fellow Democrats have rejected them.
On Monday, the Republican-led Senate passed on a party-line vote the Republicans’ proposed political maps that would mark legislative and congressional districts over the next decade.
The vote followed the implosion of Evers’ People’s Maps Commission and the mess it made of its redistricting work.
Instead of offering up the maps, Senate Democrats late last week scurried to craft their own version without the benefit of a public hearing. In so doing, they sent a message that the people Evers called on to present an alternative to a GOP redistricting plan they have denounced as gerrymandering had failed miserably.
Democrats have long held that legislatively drawn maps are evil incarnate. That should tell you something about what they thought of the embarrassment that is the People’s maps.
Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) wanted nothing to do with either version of the Democrats’ maps. While she said she understood the attempt to gerrymander to the benefit of Democrats, the maps obliterate minority districts in Milwaukee. A version of the People’s maps would eliminate one of the Latino districts, reduce the the number of African American assembly districts from six to four, and eliminate one of the two African American senate districts.
“The worst part of the People’s Commission plan is not that it violates the Voter Rights Act, it is that the commission purposefully and completely ignored the VRA, only to eventually issue a vague promise to come back and fix it later,” Joe Handrick, executive director of Common Sense Wisconsin and redistricting expert wrote last month. “Following the VRA and the Fourteenth Amendment is foundational to protecting the civil rights of Wisconsin citizens – it cannot be an afterthought.”
Concerned about the lack of support for the People’s Maps Commission’s plan, Senate Democrats looking to salvage something submitted their version a couple hours before Monday’s floor session. Senate Republicans gave their liberal colleagues a chance to save Evers’ maps when Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) brought them back in an amendment. Sources say plenty of Democrats hated the final product, but Taylor was the only Dem to buck the governor.
Democrats were caught off guard by the amendment. They panicked, hastily calling a caucus.Evers was furious, sources say. He didn’t want to run the risk of votes against his precious People’s maps. Taylor wasn’t budging.
She was the only Democrat who voted against both map proposals, making the vote a supermajority for Republicans.
“What was the Democrats’ answer, their shining star that they were pinning their hopes on, crumbled and fell out of the sky like Lucifer being thrown out of heaven,” a legislative aide told Empower Wisconsin.
It was another massive failure for Evers.
“Governor Evers’ People’s Maps Commission created maps that are so deeply flawed that a bipartisan supermajority in the State Senate had no other choice but to reject them,” LeMahieu said. “The non-partisan redistricting commission, long heralded by Democrats as the only way to draw maps, has failed… miserably. Today, Democrats had the chance to introduce the Governor’s maps. Instead, the Senate rejected them in bipartisan fashion.”