Wisconsin Governor Signs Fair Legislative Maps in Historic and Long-Awaited Victory for Voters

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The state of Wisconsin — home to some of the most gerrymandered legislative districts in the country for more than a decade — will have fair maps in time for the 2024 general election, thanks to legislation signed on Monday by Gov. Tony Evers (D).

The new maps mark a complete seachange for the political landscape of the Badger State. Eighteen of the state’s 33 new Senate seats were won by President Joe Biden in 2020, while former President Donald Trump won 50 of the state’s 99 Assembly districts — a partisan makeup closely resembling the state’s hyper-competitive nature. Republicans have held overwhelming majorities in both chambers for years despite Democrats frequently winning statewide elections, due to the GOP’s extreme partisan gerrymandering.

​​In December, the new liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the state’s legislative maps for being noncontiguous and blocked them from being used in future elections, which prompted the Legislature to create new districts.

For days, there was intense speculation as to if Evers was going to sign the maps. Though the governor pledged to sign his maps if they made it to his desk, Democrats near-unanimously voted against the maps, taking issue in part with the fact that no public hearing or committee vote took place along with a provision in the bill text that delays the implementation of the maps until November. Last week, Sen. Chris Carson (D) told Democracy Docket he couldn’t see Evers’ signing the maps.

Although Democrats were initially concerned with what they saw as a Republican attempt to delay the implementation of the maps and protect the GOP from potential recalls, subsequent reporting revealed that the timing was implemented by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau, which said the decision was standard practice. 

Four Legislative Democrats flanked Evers at a press conference celebrating the maps, where the governor jubilantly told the audience that “[i]t is a new day in Wisconsin, and today is a beautiful day for democracy.” Sen. Mark Spreitzer (D), who voted against the maps and attended the signing ceremony, said that his “vote was never about the map itself, it was about the process. It was about making sure we looked at all the legal angles to make sure there wasn’t a Republican trick here to avoid fair maps.”

Common Cause Wisconsin hailed the signing of the maps, writing in a statement that “the citizens and voters of Wisconsin have prevailed.” Ben Wikler, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, argued that “[t]he long, dark night of ultra-partisan gerrymandering is over, and a new day for democracy now dawns in the Badger State.”

Evers acknowledged Monday that some in his party disagreed with his decision to sign the maps, but argued it was important for him to keep his promise. Rep. LaKeshia Myers (D) explained that she was “disappointed” in the redistricting process and argued that “[t]he map signed today is still not truly ‘fair.’”

Some Democrats expressed additional concerns about a potential Republican legal challenge to the districts, though Evers said that he was “thinking that’s a small risk, but if it is, we’ll take it on and win.” 

Read the bill here.