Wisconsin needs nonpartisan redistricting

This is great news for anyone who wants to see fair elections in our state.

A lawsuit filed by Democrats challenging Wisconsin’s 2010 political map reached a small milestone recently when it filed a rebuttal to state Republicans’ motion to dismiss the case. The Democrats also learned the names of the appeals court justices who would hear their case — known as Whitford v. Nichols — if it moves forward.

Sachin Chheda, director of the Wisconsin Fair Elections project, fully expects the case to get a hearing later this fall by an appeals court panel of three judges. The side that losses will probably appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has never ruled in a case challenging a political map due to overt partisanship, as this case does, Chheda said.

In the past, the U.S. Supreme Court has found maps unconstitutional for being drawn in a way that discriminated against minority voters or failed to uphold the principle of “one-person-one-vote.”

“We think we have a strong case (and) we hope to get passed the motion to dismiss and get to the trial stage so we can have a full examination of the issues,” he said. “We’re trying to establish a new Constitutional standing. The Supreme Court has said that there could be an instance in which a map is too partisan to be constitutional. They’ve never had a measurement by which they can make this judgment. We’re proposing that measurement.”

Chheda is hopeful that a fair and politically neutral map will be in place in time for the presidential election in November 2016.

I’ve been a proponent of nonpartisan legislative redistricting similar to what’s used in the state of Iowa, because it’s a model that makes a heck of a lot of sense.

In a locked windowless chamber across the street from the Iowa State House, three bureaucrats sequester themselves for 45 days every decade after census data is released. Their top-secret task: the “redistricting” of the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries.

But here, unlike in most other states, every care is taken to ensure the process is not political.

The mapmakers are not allowed to consider previous election results, voter registration, or even the addresses of incumbent members of Congress. No politician — not the governor, the House speaker, or Senate majority leader — is allowed to weigh in, or get a sneak preview.

I’d love to see Wisconsin implement a nonpartisan legislative redistricting system similar to Iowa’s, but I’d also like to see it as an amendment to Wisconsin’s state constitution.


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10 thoughts on “Wisconsin needs nonpartisan redistricting

  1. I am very pleased to have you join with others for calling for a change to how this state’s redistricting operates. This is something that we all need to press over and over and make sure the voters know what it means and why they should care. Thanks for your efforts on this matter that along with campaign finance laws are the main reasons for so much of our political dysfunction.

    1. Unfortunately, this makes too much sense for either party in Wisconsin to implement, and Republicans especially, because the way they’ve gerrymandered things ensures they’ll maintain their grip on the status quo for a good long while, barring court challenges like the one in my original entry.

  2. I have often thought that it ought to be possible to create a computer program that could draw the map with the lowest possible line miles. Such a system would eliminate those weird shaped districts created for political purposes.

    1. I’m willing to bet such programs already exist and are in use, but the issue is convincing both political parties (each of which is looking for an advantage) to use such a system even if it means having more competitive districts and elections that aren’t as easily won.

      I’d argue such a system would force both parties to find better candidates to run in order to win more competitive elections.

    2. I believe you have found a common sense solution to a repeating problem. Now, if we could get people, citizens, voters to get on board we could eliminate a wedge issue. Are you willing to create a petition that could be circulated amongst the electorate and used to force our politicians to do what is right, not what is advantageous to either side. I would lend my support and be willing to stand side by side with you collecting signatures. This would be a grass roots effort that you could take credit for.

      1. It should be noted well over a year ago newspapers in the state banded together for a Sunday edition and urged through their editorial pages that the GOP chairs of the committees with this bill hold a hearing. Just hold a hearing and let the people speak and be heard. No hearing was ever held.

      2. Thank you WB. I have been involved in petitioning government in the past and am not averse to doing so again. That said, there are some serious hurdles. First among them is whether such a law would run afoul of federal law. I am thinking of the Voting Rights Act though I am no expert there whatsoever. I probably would not get seriously involved in trying to change a law at the federal level. Secondly, I would be interested in exploring the idea and getting involved if there was serious commitment (or potentially so) from folks such as yourself and many others of both political stripes. Regarding credit, I am reminded of a saying about how much can get done if one doesn’t care who gets the credit. I’m interested, even excited to finally find some common ground here.

        1. Denis, if the law hasn’t been challenged in Iowa, I’m willing to bet we could implement something similar in Wisconsin – so long as the desire to do so was there.

          Unfortunately, I simply don’t think Republicans in Wisconsin would be interested in moving towards a nonpartisan redistricting system, given how they’ve gerrymandered things so drastically in their favor.

  3. Clearly ,Gerrymandering is unfair, unethical, and a corruption of the voting process in favor of a continuation of the majority in power, be they red or blue, white or black, or whatever.

  4. I didn’t know there was any hope for this. Partisan redistricting is a mockery of political freedom, no matter which party is doing it. A relative of mine who is extremely conservative says it’s okay because the Democrats do it too.

    I sincerely hope I would not be thinking that way if I were aware of the issue back when Democrats had more control over the state. I had no idea there was any hope whatsoever for this to be fought. That would be good news. I followed stuff a lot less back then. In fact when I looked up political issues and took a political question thing to help me find candidates I liked, I thought some of the far right options couldn’t possibly be serious. Before then I naively thought all those “family” organizations actually fought for families, rather than against those that are different.

    I’m also sick and tired (no matter the party) of this “we have a bare majority so we do not want to compromise at all, and our base will come with pitchforks if we do.”

    I never thought I’d be feeling sorry for John Boener, but here we are. That went off on a tangent, but mostly because I really hope I’d feel the same if the Republicans were not calling the shots. Redistricting must be neutral.

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