Every 10 years the party in power in the Wisconsin Legislature gets to redraw the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts to reflect shifts in population.
And every 10 years, the party in power draws the lines in a way that helps get more of its own party members elected.
The result is evermore legislative districts that are Republican strongholds or Democratic strongholds. We see fewer and fewer competitive districts — those that could swing either way.
And that's a shame. When districts are dominated by one party or the other, there is less opportunity for meaningful debate on issues important to voters in that area. We believe elections should be decided based on the candidates' positions on issues, not based on the "D" or "R" following their names.
Voters should have a choice. Voters should be able to pick their legislators rather than legislators picking their voters.
That's why we introduced legislation last session to take redistricting out of the hands of legislators and put it in the hands of an Independent Redistricting Commission.
The Redistricting Commission would be directed to make districts as compact and contiguous as possible and keep municipalities and counties whole to the greatest extent possible.
This kind of reform is long overdue. Under the current legislative maps, cities are carved up like jigsaw puzzles or divided in two. In many instances, neighbors living across the street from one another will be represented by different senators and representatives.
You have free articles remaining.
The time to pass redistricting reform is now, well ahead of the next U.S. census. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to find the political will to get it done. That's because right now, we don't know which party will be in power in 2021, the year the next redistricting begins. Democrats could be in control or Republicans could be in control, or the houses could be split.
If we hold off on enacting this type of reform, the party that is in power will have less interest in changing the way we redraw district boundaries because they will have more to lose. It's hard for those in power to give up power.
Between 2001 and 2011, the turnover of legislators was nearly 70 percent. Assuming this turnover rate continues, most incumbent legislators will no longer be here in 2021. Thus, we have no self-preservation interest.
We believe the majority of Wisconsinites want to see the two parties working together for the good of the people. Voters are tired of partisan fighting and gridlock.
You can help by contacting your state legislators and urging them to support redistricting reform. Call or email your legislators directly, or call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-362-9472.
Cullen, D-Janesville, represents most of Rock County and the Whitewater area in the Wisconsin Senate. Schultz, R-Richland Center, represents much of southwest Wisconsin.