September 15, 2015 Contact: Rep. Dave Considine
Column: Redistricting needs reform
By: Rep. Dave Considine and the co-authors of AB 328:
Rep. Mark Spreitzer, Rep. David Bowen, Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, Rep. Beth Meyers, Rep. Amanda Stuck, and Rep. Lisa Subeck
Last week, I spent two days with my Assembly Democratic freshmen colleagues speaking at press conferences and meeting with editorial boards in Madison, Green Bay, and Appleton. We talked a great deal about the value of non-partisan redistricting and about our Redistricting Reform Bill (AB 328), which was recently introduced in the Assembly.
Voters should choose their representatives; representatives should not choose their voters. It’s time for Wisconsin to remove the power of redistricting from the hands of politicians and give it to a non-partisan body. The temptation to redistrict for partisan gain or individual self-interest is simply too great to leave politicians in charge of this process.
Not surprisingly, nonpartisan redistricting is a nonpartisan issue. We’ve heard from numerous Wisconsinites from across the political spectrum demanding this common-sense reform, and we know the vast majority of voters support this change. In pursuit of that goal, we authored the Redistricting Reform bill, Assembly Bill 328. This bill shifts district line-drawing authority from the legislature to the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau. The change will create more competitive districts, keep communities together, and put an end to needless waste of taxpayer resources.
A recent study showed that Wisconsin has one of the most gerrymandered maps in history, meaning that districts were drawn by the majority party to maximize their seats and keep themselves in the majority without facing competitive elections. This lack of accountability has led to recent attacks on our open records laws and our non-partisan government watchdog, all without fear of consequences from the voters.
Gerrymandered maps don’t just keep the majority party in power, they make representatives of both parties less accountable to voters. Nearly half of Wisconsin Assembly races were uncontested by the other party in 2014. In fact, a recent study by Common Cause in Wisconsin showed that just 9 out of 99 Assembly contests were competitive in 2014.
Our current redistricting process is also expensive. The most recent redistricting cost Wisconsin taxpayers $1.9 million in 2012, stemming largely from legal costs. Through non-partisan redistricting, we would no longer need high-priced law firms to draw up highly-partisan maps created by the political majority who happens to be in power after each ten-year census. We could also avoid having to hire more expensive lawyers to argue over those same partisan maps in the lawsuits that inevitably result.
The people of Wisconsin deserve an opportunity to voice their opinion on these reforms, which have been used successfully in neighboring Iowa for decades. Unfortunately, when similar legislation was introduced last session, it did not even receive a public hearing in either the Assembly or the State Senate. We hope this session will be different.
We've sent letters requesting a hearing to Rep. Kathy Bernier, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, where the Redistricting Reform bill has been referred, and to Governor Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. We now urge voters across Wisconsin to contact their representatives and senators to ask them to co-sponsor this critical legislation, and ask for a public hearing on it.
The people of Wisconsin deserve answers on why their government insists on keeping with the status quo of costly, highly-partisan legislative redistricting. Let’s return constitutional rights to voters, and allow them to pick their legislators - not the other way around.