Brief

Republicans offer joint resolution on redistricting

By: - September 23, 2021 2:59 pm
Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition by Tony Webster CC BY 2.0 A yard sign in Mellen, Wisconsin reads: "This Time Wisconsin Deserves Fair Maps," paid for by the Fair Elections Project, FairMapsWI.com. The political sign supports redistricting legislation to reform gerrymandering.

Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition by Tony Webster CC BY 2.0 A yard sign in Mellen, Wisconsin reads: “This Time Wisconsin Deserves Fair Maps,” paid for by the Fair Elections Project, FairMapsWI.com. The political sign supports redistricting legislation to reform gerrymandering.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu drafted a joint resolution on establishing new voting maps and referred it to the Legislature’s rules committee Thursday, which put it on the calendar for the Assembly’s floor session next week.

The resolution’s first two points are uncontroversial, stating that, in drawing new legislative districts based on population changes in the 2020 census, the Legislature should follow the law and attempt to create districts with nearly equal population. 

The third point goes to the question of whether Wisconsin will continue to have gerrymandered maps that have allowed the Republican legislative majority to increase the proportion of seats it holds even when a majority of voters statewide cast their ballots for Democrats. The resolution commits the Legislature to “Retain as much as possible the core of existing districts, thus maintaining existing communities of interest.”

Voting-rights groups have challenged the existing maps in court and Gov. Tony Evers’ People’s Maps Commission has invited the public to get involved in drawing district maps, encouraging people to redraw districts that, under the current maps,  split up their  “communities of interest”  — such as watersheds, school districts and other matters of public concern.

“There are so few competitive districts because of the way the lines were drawn 10 years ago,” Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay), the co-author of a bill to establish an independent, nonpartisan redistricting process in Wisconsin, told the Examiner. “I would like to see our redistricting process be more fair and drawn in a way that represents communities, not the interests of individual politicians.”

“This resolution is yet another piece of the puzzle as Speaker Vos and his right-wing allies try to rig the maps and disenfranchise voters,” Jacob Malinowski, communications director for the Fair Elections Project, said in a statement responding to the Republican leaders’ joint resolution. “The current map was thrown out in federal court for disenfranchising voters, and although that decision was overturned by a partisan Supreme Court majority, the substantive issues raised continue to go unrefuted.”

In 2019 advocates on both sides of recent redistricting battles in Wisconsin told the Examiner they believed that the Republican-controlled legislature might pass new, gerrymandered voting maps after the 2020 census using a joint-resolution process that would allow them to avoid sending the map to Evers for his signature or veto. The current joint resolution does not do that. Instead it sets out principles that lay the groundwork for designing a new map.

“It’s time we had a fair process and we start with our actual communities,” Malinowski added, “not the Speaker’s rigged 2011 maps.”

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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.

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