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Another Push to Redraw Wisconsin’s Political Boundaries

Political boundaries in Wisconsin may have to be redrawn to stop partisan gerrymandering. (stevenoviciger/iStockPhoto)
Political boundaries in Wisconsin may have to be redrawn to stop partisan gerrymandering. (stevenoviciger/iStockPhoto)
January 23, 2017

MADISON, Wis. – In November, a federal three-judge panel ruled that Wisconsin's political boundaries are unconstitutionally gerrymandered to give an unfair advantage to incumbent politicians.

Reform legislation will be introduced in the current legislative session to take the job of drawing political boundaries out of the hands of partisan politicians, and give it to a nonpartisan panel.

Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, says Wisconsin elections are no longer competitive, and points to the state's congressional seats in Washington as an example.

"We have eight and all of them are safe for either the Republicans or the Democrats that occupy those eight seats, and in the Wisconsin Legislature, only 10 of 99 Assembly seats and only three of 33 state Senate seats are remotely competitive," he states.

Heck says this results in a situation where the state's elected representatives aren't truly accountable to the people. He maintains the gerrymandered districts have essentially insured that the person who holds the seat won't lose it in the next election.

According to Heck, the legislation that will be introduced will be patterned after the system for drawing political boundaries set up in 1980 in Iowa. He says the Iowa system for drawing political boundaries works well for a number of reasons.

"They do not consult the legislative leaders, they don't consult any legislators and they have a strict set of criteria that they have to follow in drawing the lines, and amongst them are keeping communities together, keeping counties together if they can," he explains.

In Wisconsin, there are small communities that are split into different political districts because the lines are drawn based on voting tendencies.

Heck says the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites do not want to see self-centered politicians controlling the redistricting process that will come after the next census in 2020. He says now is the time to pass a law similar to the one in Iowa.

"If voters want to have a choice and if they want to get legislators and members of Congress more responsive, and members of the Legislature and Congress who actually listen to them, they have to demand that there be competitive elections," he states.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI