Right now, elections are rigged in Wisconsin. They’re rigged because the redistricting that’s required every 10 years puts a “thumb on the scale” under the current rules.In fact, in 2012 Republicans “won” five of Wisconsin’s eight congressional seats despite having received less than half of the state’s congressional votes.A federal court decision that same year determined that Republicans’ attempts to redraw maps on the southside of Milwaukee violated the law, calling the effort “all but shameful.” Wisconsin taxpayers paid more than $2.1 million in court costs to resolve the issue — money that could have been better invested elsewhere in the state.This vote-nullification arrangement does not have to continue; there’s a way to fix it.Assembly Bill 328 and Senate Bill 58 would have transferred redistricting responsibilities to the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB), a nonpartisan state service agency. This would have put an end to the current, backward system in which politicians get to pick their voters, rather than the other way around.Unfortunately, the Republican-led legislature halted the progress of these bills in committees. I hope to have an opportunity to work hard with my colleagues next Session to reintroduce and pass this common sense fix.
The proposed process is based on Iowa’s system, which has had a non-partisan agency similar to the LRB redistrict the state since 1981. While this process also requires the redistricting to be approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, Iowa hasn’t seen the contentious, legally-challenged process our state has seen recently. The need for change is apparent.In the 2012 state Assembly election, only 11 out of 99 districts were considered competitive – that is, decided by a margin of six percentage points or less – according to the Legislative Reference Bureau. Yet it is only when a district is reasonably competitive that all voters — including those who did not support the winning candidate — are truly represented by the successful candidate once she or he assumes office.
A non-partisan body responsible for redistricting — whether it’s based on the Iowa model or uses another method, such as a commission — would assure representation of all citizens by bringing accountability to elected officials; it would eliminate costly court cases; and it would create a more democratic environment for political debate in Wisconsin. It’s time we fixed the rigged system.