With Other Authoritarian Schemes Cooking, Wisconsin GOP Backs Off Protasiewicz Impeachment

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MADISON, WISCONSIN - MARCH 18: Judge Janet Protasiewicz onstage during the live taping of "Pod Save America," hosted by WisDems at the Barrymore Theater on March 18, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jeff Schear/... MADISON, WISCONSIN - MARCH 18: Judge Janet Protasiewicz onstage during the live taping of "Pod Save America," hosted by WisDems at the Barrymore Theater on March 18, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jeff Schear/Getty Images for WisDems) MORE LESS
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After receiving less-than-enthusiastic feedback from a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice on proceeding with impeachment plans against Justice Janet Protasiewicz, it appears GOP state legislators are dropping the gambit for now.

Republican Speaker of the State Assembly Robin Vos (R) announced at a news conference Thursday that he and his fellow Republicans won’t pursue impeachment against the newly-elected state Supreme Court justice over her past remarks on the state’s “rigged” electoral maps. Rather, they will wait until she does something they deem worthy of impeachment “in office” — a convenient pull-back from a largely unpopular plan.

“If they decide to inject their own political bias inside the process and not follow the law, we have the ability to go to the Supreme Court and we also have the ability to hold her accountable to the voters of Wisconsin,” Vos said of the newly liberal-majority state high court at the news conference Thursday.

Vos also said that impeachment remains “on the table,” especially if Protasiewicz and others on the state’s high court vote against the Republican-drawn maps in an upcoming gerrymandering case, according to local reports.

It’s all part of Wisconsin Republicans’ desperate attempts to keep the court’s new liberal majority from weighing in on two redistricting cases that the court will hear in coming weeks — both challenging the Wisconsin Assembly’s egregiously skewed maps, which are routinely ranked as among the most gerrymandered in the nation.

Wisconsin Republicans have been threatening to impeach Protasiewicz for weeks, citing her remarks on the campaign trail about the state’s “rigged” maps and the fact that she took money from the Democratic Party leading up to her election as grounds for overturning the will of the people (despite the fact that the Democratic party is not involved in the map litigation). Protasiewicz won her seat on the high court earlier this year after successfully campaigning on vows to protect abortion access and addressing the state’s maps issue.

While it seems Vos et al. are dropping the impeachment bit for now, it may simply be because they saw it wasn’t sitting well with voters, and that it might not have even worked in the first place due to the schedule of the state’s special elections.

But more importantly, it may be because they’ve got another scheme in the works to keep their manipulated maps in place moving forward.

Per my colleague Kate Riga, who reported on the Republican state legislators’ new proposal when it came forward early last month:

Rather than watch their carefully crafted maps — which ensure their dominance even when Democrats win well over 50 percent of the vote — fall at the state Supreme Court, they’re suddenly on board with a “nonpartisan” redistricting process. The plan would entail legislators’ staffers drawing up the maps, which then the legislature and governor would have to approve. 

But there’s an additional catch written in to favor the Republican legislators. 

“If the second bill is similarly rejected by at least one house, the same procedure applies, except that the third bill is subject to amendment in the same manner as other bills,” the plan reads

So, after voting down two of the maps, the Republicans legislators could make changes directly. 

The proposal passed the Assembly last month and has not yet been taken up by the state Senate. It’s unclear if it will be, as the bill currently lacks the votes in that chamber. If it does pass that body, it’ll hit at least one major roadblock before getting sent back to the state legislature: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) has called the legislation “bogus” and would likely veto the bill.

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