Democrats slam district maps drawn by People's Map's Commission, GOP map heads to Evers' desk

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Several Democratic lawmakers slammed the district maps drawn by the governor's People's Map's Commission because they said the proposal would dramatically shrink their representation in the state.

During the Assembly's floor debate on redistricting, members of the Black and Latino caucus shared their opposition to Governor Tony Evers' People's Map's Commission, a proposal Evers has touted as "fair."

"A map that cancels out our voices, cracks and dilutes our vote, is immoral and it's wrong," said Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez (D-Milwaukee).

During her first speech on the Assembly floor, Ortiz-Velez delivered emotional and fiery criticism of the commission's maps, calling them "illegal and unfair."

"We tried many times to speak with the governor's office and the People's Map Commission to address our concerns, and we were basically dismissed, gaslighted and ignored," Ortiz-Velez said.

Other Democrats echoed her remarks, saying the maps fail to meet requirements set by the Voter Rights Act, which is intended to make sure minority voters have a say in who they elect to represent them.

"It is just amazing to me how far individuals are willing to go to dilute African American and Latino populations to win," said Rep. LaKeshia Myers (D-Milwaukee). "I surely hope the governor is listening and watching because I'm talking to him."

The map created by the commission would still give Republicans a slight edge, but other Democrats believe it ensures elections will be more competitive. Members on the commission created "opportunity districts" to allow African American and Hispanic voters to create coalitions to help pick up seats in the Legislature, but there's no guarantee they would elect Black and Latino candidates.

Drawing new political lines, known as redistricting, occurs every 10 years as states are obligated to draw new legislative and congressional districts to reflect the state's population shift.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) offered an amendment that allowed a vote on the commission's maps, which resulted in the measure failing (21-77). In total, 17 Democrats voted against the plan.

On Monday, Senate Republicans took the same approach which resulted in one Democrat, Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), voting against the district lines created by the commission.

Instead, Assembly Republicans approved their own map that largely keeps in place current lines from 2011 that benefit their party, but opponents call it one of the most gerrymandered maps in the country.

The governor has already vowed to veto the GOP plan, which sets up the redistricting battle to be settled by the courts.

"It follows traditional redistricting principles to make sure we have compact, contiguous maps so every single person has the ability to be represented," Vos said.

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