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MADISON – A federal court has ordered the Wisconsin Legislature to redraw voting districts in time for the 2018 elections. This is a victory for voters, who have been voting in gerrymandered districts that were ruled unconstitutional in November.

Although the court did not specify how the Legislature should redraw the maps, the League of Women Voters urges lawmakers to choose a method that will minimize undue partisanship. The League filed a brief in the case offering possible ways to accomplish that.

The Wisconsin constitution gives the legislature the responsibility of redistricting, which takes place every ten years after the census. Unfortunately, when you have one-party rule, as was the case in Wisconsin in 2011, the majority party is able to “choose the voters” by drawing meandering district boundaries designed to include some voters and exclude others.

Of the nonpartisan redistricting methods we proposed, the most practical is the procedure followed successfully in Iowa, which has a similar constitutional provision. There, a nonpartisan legislative agency drafts the district maps for the Legislature, which retains final responsibility for enacting (or rejecting) the proposed maps. The Wisconsin Legislature could direct its Legislative Reference Bureau, the nonpartisan service agency which drafts all legislation, to create new maps. The agency would have to follow the usual districting criteria mandated by state and federal law, such as compactness, contiguity, respect for existing municipal boundaries and non-dilution of minority voting power.

The plan should also provide for public input. Iowa’s Legislative Services Agency is advised by a nonpartisan commission and must hold at least three public hearings about the plan in different regions of the state and report on the hearings to the Legislature. The Legislature then brings the redistricting bill to a vote shortly after receiving the report. Only corrective amendments are allowed. If the initial plan is rejected, the agency must submit a second version within 35 days. Again, the Legislature votes, with only corrective amendments allowed. There is plenty of time for such a process to take place in Wisconsin before the court-ordered deadline of Nov. 1.

Since its creation in 1980, the Iowa process has operated smoothly and with the support of both parties. Each decade the Legislature has enacted the first or second proposed plan. No plan has been challenged in court, saving Iowa taxpayers millions of dollars in litigation fees.

Iowa’s plan has resulted in some of the most competitive districts in the nation, offering voters a choice of two or more viable candidates. In Wisconsin, none of our eight congressional districts is considered competitive, and Common Cause in Wisconsin reported in 2016 that just one in 10 of our legislative districts could be considered competitive. That leads to uncontested elections and less choice for voters.

There are currently proposals before the Wisconsin Legislature to adopt the Iowa plan. Lawmakers should do so this session. They also should apply the plan now to redraw the current, unconstitutional districts in a way that will give voters confidence that they are not being manipulated by politicians seeking an unfair partisan advantage.

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Andrea Kaminski is executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for informed and active participation in government. Follow @LWV_WI on Twitter.

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(16) comments

Redwall

League of Women Voters. HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA.

oldhomey

Ah, yes, Redwall, those danged females! They think they're so danged clever when it comes to politics, so we'll have to humor them I guess, and let them fill their pretty little heads with silly ideas about democracy and fair elections. What could they possibly know about such matters? You need a couple of kaknockers between the legs to understand that stuff, not knockers above the belt. Sheesh! What IS IT that women want, anyway???

new2Lax

California Congress woman Waters seems to think Putin invaded Korea and Pelosi thinks Bush is still in office, I'm not sure which Bush she was talking about and I'm sure she didn't know either. I thought John Lewis and Conyers speaking this morning indicated they didn't know what planet they were on. God help us. These folks are the leaders of the party and looking to admit Keith Ellison and Wasserman as head of the DNC.

Redwall

It would have made a great Seinfeld episode.

Snow Cougar Mary Burke

Nonpartisan? You mean just like the "nonpartisan" GAB? ... The organization that conspired to harass Republicans that supported Scott Walker?

Wisconsin’s Shame, The Left Criminalizes Free Speech

new2Lax

Democrats should never be allowed to be involved with any rules regarding politics or elections. Harry Reid should you what they are capable of and that's not a good thing. They will go to any lengths to make sure the outcome is favorable to there party. After changing rules in the Senate to get a piece of legislation passed and now we want them to be involved in redistricting maps. I think not.

oldhomey

Another flawlessly though out, elegantly written and stated opinion by new2. The man is amazing. So profound!

Mr Wizard

Right you are, Homely. If the lefties were in charge and doing the redistricting, none of this would be an issue. Right?

oldhomey

Mr Wizard, you continue to disgrace the memory of one of La Crosse's finest sons by your mis-use of your screen name. And, if you had been reading me on the subject of redistricting and gerrymandering, I have said all along that in some (not all) Democratic powerhouse states, like Illinois, gerrymandering has been an abusive use of power like it is in Wisconsin. Gerrymandering should be outlawed. Period. It is undemocratic. Redistricting should be a non-partisan function carried out by carefully selected committees that represent all spectrums to assure as best as can be humanly done to see that the voting districts are never unfairly drawn to favor one party over another. Then none of this would be an issue. Right?

new2Lax

Thank you.

oldhomey

Moreover, I now congratulate you for your outstanding post of 1:26a, new2. It is the first actual complete sentence I have seen you compose without a grammatical error or misspelling, and it conveys the thought that you intended when you wrote it. Have you been taking some remedial composition and grammar lessons lately? How else to explain this?

The Mouse of Death

one-party rules are good if it is the right party and not the left party. Californa liberals cheated for Hilary says Presitent Trump so the Repubicans shoud cheat more too.

LesTrafik

Make voting great again. Fixed congressional districts that are biased. Use a non-partisan independent commission to do it, and not state legislatures run by one party or another. Plain old common sense.

LaCrosseCampers

How do you find people that are "non-partisan"?

fish37

democratic head quarters.

Tim Russell

What an ignorant comment.

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