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, they were able to craft wildly partisan maps that heavily tilted future control of the legislature in their favor.
On July 16, Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Assembly and State Senate called for nonpartisan redistricting reform in Wisconsin in the form of Assembly Bill 303/Senate Bill 288. AB 303 would direct the Legislative Reference Bureau to draw redistricting plans based upon standards specified in the bill and 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.
Later that day, Speaker Robin Vos said that as far as redistricting goes, he does not support nonpartisan redistricting but wants to find a consensus.
However, there is already a clear consensus. A January 2019 poll from Marquette University Law School showed 72 percent of Wisconsinites support having a nonpartisan commission to draw legislative maps. Just 18 percent said the legislature and governor should be in charge. Forty-six of Wisconsin’s 72 county boards have passed resolutions calling for nonpartisan redistricting. There is a consensus among the people of Wisconsin – they want fair, nonpartisan maps.
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 State Assembly. In fact, overall, Democrats won 54 percent of the total votes cast in Assembly races yet won just 36 percent 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 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 the elected officials in Wisconsin are accountable to the people that 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.