By Liz Holbrook, WSAU
MADISON, WI (WSAU) -- Nonpartisan redistricting reform is coming to the Wisconsin state budget and one local legislator is thrilled to see that happen.
State Representative for the 71st District Katrina Shankland is delighted to see Governor Tony Evers include nonpartisan redistricting in his state budget. The nonpartisan redistricting process that Governor Evers is including in his budget is modeled after the system in Iowa. The Iowa system has been in place for over 30 years and passed with bipartisan support.
Shankland explains how Evers redistricting reform legislation would work in Wisconsin from the budget proposal. "Politicians would no longer be allowed to draw the electoral map. And instead, a nonpartisan redistricting commission would do so. The commission wouldn't be able to look at voting patterns or the incumbent list, the demographic information for the district. They would only be able to draw the district in a scientific, mathematical, and nonpartisan way."
With the way the electoral map is currently drawn, Shankland says it makes elections less competitive and unfair to voters. "What that does is that it really disincentivizes the ability for citizens to weigh in and hold their elected officials accountable. Because the maps are essentially unfair when you've got politicians rigging the maps to help them stay in power. That's first of all an abuse of power and second of all it disempowers the citizens."
Shankland believes that when setting up an electoral map, it shouldn't be about rigging it so one party or person can win. It should be about having a level playing field across the state. "It shouldn't be about rigging the map to benefit one politician or one party over another. It should be nonpartisan. Everyone should have a level playing field. We should be guaranteed fair elections. And I think citizens will feel empowered and they'll feel like their voices are finally being heard."
Most voters are in favor of nonpartisan voting districts according to a recent Marquette Law School poll. Shankland agrees that voters would support the legislation. "When it comes to nonpartisan redistricting a majority of every party, Republican, Democrat, Independent, they all support nonpartisan redistricting when you poll the voters. It's only the politicians who oppose it. And frankly, it's because they're afraid of losing their power. They benefit from rigged maps, therefore their less interested in unrigging them."
Shankland notes that the current voting maps in Wisconsin have been in court for several years for being unconstitutionally gerrymandered. She says these lawsuits are costing the state time and money they could get back with fair maps. The budget will be introduced on Thursday and Shankland encourages voters to call their legislators to support the nonpartisan redistricting legislation for fair elections.