New maps in Wisconsin will allow democracy to ‘work better’ for Black and working Americans, say advocates

Advocates and Democrats are celebrating after Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers signed new legislative maps into law, ending more than a decade of Republican control of the state’s electoral process.

Katie Rosenberg, the Democratic mayor of Wausau, told theGrio it is a “really big moment, adding, “The governor always holds himself to a high moral standard and he knows that signing this bill was the right thing to do.”

Mandela Barnes, former lieutenant governor of Wisconsin, told theGrio it feels like a “new day for the state of Wisconsin” after the implementation of the new statewide maps. 

“We’ve been dealing with a gerrymandered legislature that has completely governed counter to what the majority of people in this state want,” said Barnes, a former Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. “To finally have that opportunity for that to be rectified is something that I personally have been waiting on for a long time.”

April Albright, legal director at Black Voters Matter, described the move by Gov. Evers as a “major victory.” She told theGrio that it will serve as a “north star” in electoral politics and predicted its influence on people across the nation “concerned about the balance of power in their state.”

“In Wisconsin, you now have evenly split districts. For over 13 years, the state’s GOP has had a tremendous stronghold over the positions in the state Senate and Assembly,” Albright explained.

Jonathan Miller, chief program officer at Public Rights Project, told theGrio that this is a “huge win for democracy in Wisconsin.”

“Having fair maps creates a competitive balance in the legislature and that’s incredibly important to everybody,” he said. “It’s just going to make government work better.”

Former Lt. Gov. Barnes said that Black Wisconsin residents have been disproportionately impacted by unfair representation. He explained that due to the state’s GOP leadership, Wisconsin is one of the only states that has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, legalized marijuana, protected abortion access, or raised the minimum wage.

Miller said the new maps would “empower communities of color during the elections” by ensuring their votes are heard.

HEPHZIBAH, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 03: A member of the audience wearing a ‘Black Voters Still Matter’ t-shirt from Georgia NAACP as Georgia Democratic Senate candidate U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) speaks during a Get Out the Vote rally December 3, 2022 in Hephzibah, Georgia. Sen. Warnock continues to campaign throughout Georgia for the runoff election on December 6 against his Republican challenger Herschel Walker. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In December, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that the state maps were “unconstitutional” and ordered that a new one be drawn ahead of the 2024 elections. The ruling came after Democratic voters filed a lawsuit against the state in August 2023, contending that the legislative maps violated the state’s constitution and gave Republicans an unfair advantage.

The lawsuit argued that the “maps’ extreme partisan skew” resulted in the “deliberate fragmentation of Democratic voters in Wisconsin’s mid-sized cities, villages, and towns.”

Mayor Rosenberg said that the maps were unfair and that all people “deserve a voice.”

“It matters that the will of the people is the law of the land,” she said.

Wisconsin’s previous legislative maps had been in place since 2011, giving the GOP a two-thirds supermajority in both the Senate and the state Assembly. In 2022, the maps were challenged; however, due to the majority conservative state Supreme Court, the maps were kept in place.

In 2023, the political makeup of the state Supreme Court changed after liberal Justice Janet Protasiewicz was sworn into office, replacing one of the conservative justices. While Protasiewicz was on the campaign trail, she called the Republican-drawn maps “rigged” and many speculated that she would vote to overturn the court’s previous ruling.

Miller of the Public Rights Project said that for the last 13 years, “unfair” and “partisan” maps have “skewed policy in Wisconsin.”

“Politicians struggled to advance policy that was in the interest of their communities because you had a legislature that was substantially gerrymandering,” he said. “With these fair maps, we can expect democracy to work better.”

Albright of Black Voters Matter said the new maps would open the door for more Democratic representation, which would help address issues that impact Black Americans and working-class Americans.

“When Democrats are in leadership,” she said, “you see a better sharing of resources, expansion of Medicaid, efforts for education to be funded more equity, voting rights are preserved and reproductive freedoms are protected.”

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Advocates and Democrats in Wisconsin are celebrating the signing of new legislative maps into law by Governor Tony Evers, which ended more than a decade of Republican control of the state’s electoral process. This victory is seen as a new day for the state, with evenly split districts and an end to gerrymandering. The move is praised for creating a competitive balance in the legislature and empowering communities of color during elections. The new maps are expected to result in more Democratic representation which would help address issues affecting Black Americans and working-class Americans. The previous legislative maps had been in place since 2011, giving the GOP a two-thirds supermajority in both the Senate and the state Assembly. Legal challenges followed and in December, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that the maps were unconstitutional, leading to new, more fair and balanced maps being drawn. This development is being seen as a win for democracy in Wisconsin and is expected to lead to better government functioning.

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