SUN PRAIRIE — It is well past time for Wisconsin to have legislative districts drawn by a nonpartisan entity.
Currently in Wisconsin, maps are drawn by the Legislature and approved by the governor. Because the Legislature and office of the governor were both controlled by Republicans when the last maps were drawn, the Republicans were able to craft wildly partisan maps that heavily tilted future control of the Legislature in their favor.
Recently, Democratic members of the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate called for nonpartisan redistricting reform in Wisconsin. Assembly Bill 303 and its companion legislation in the Senate, SB 288, would direct the Legislative Reference Bureau to draw redistricting plans based on standards specified in the bill, and it also establishes a Redistricting Advisory Commission. The maps would then go to the full Legislature for approval, fulfilling the constitutional obligation of the Legislature to approve maps.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos recently said that, as far as redistricting goes, he does not support nonpartisan redistricting yet wants to find consensus. But already consensus is clear. In a January statewide poll by Marquette Law School, 72% of respondents supported having a nonpartisan commission to draw legislative maps. Just 18% said the Legislature and governor should be in charge. Moreover, 46 of Wisconsin’s 72 county boards have passed resolutions calling for nonpartisan redistricting.
The consensus among the people of Wisconsin is they want fair, nonpartisan maps.
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The most basic argument for fair maps is that winning a majority of the statewide vote should give a party a reasonable chance of winning a majority of seats. In Wisconsin, this isn’t the case, and it’s not even close. In 2018, Democrats won every statewide election yet remained in the minority in both the state Senate and Assembly.
In fact, Democrats won 54% of the total votes cast in Assembly races yet won just 36% of the seats. Republicans didn’t bother running someone in one-third of Assembly races because they knew they had packed so many Democrat-leaning votes into those districts that they wouldn’t win them.
Republicans have crafted maps to keep themselves in a permanent majority, despite which way the political winds blow. This insulates them from accountability, and gives them no incentive to listen to what the people of Wisconsin want. Instead, they stay in their own bubble and continue to pursue unpopular legislation. They know they can do it without suffering the wrath of voters because the partisan maps they’ve crafted prevents it.
Nonpartisan maps would be fairly drawn, and would ensure that elected officials in Wisconsin are accountable to the people they represent. It is time for the majority in the Legislature to stop being more concerned about job security than the will of the Wisconsin people.
We must enact fair maps.
In a January statewide poll by Marquette Law School, 72% of respondents supported having a nonpartisan commission to draw legislative maps. Just 18% said the Legislature and governor should be in charge.