There’s plenty of work for the Wisconsin Legislature when it resumes this fall. We hear promises from both sides that the tone will be much more collegial and bipartisan than it was during the last session when a partisan budget was pushed through.

So it’s the perfect time for legislative leaders from both parties to consider two bills that would change the way Wisconsin draws its political boundaries.

We consider this topic to be so important that the La Crosse Tribune is joining with other newspapers from around Wisconsin today to raise public awareness about the bills. Our independent editorial voices will join with the collective mission of convincing our elected leaders that there is a better way.

We have written before about our flawed system of deciding political boundaries. It matters not which party is in control, but every 10 years after the census the lines are redrawn by the Legislature with one purpose: The party in control wants to stay that way.

Look at Monroe County, which has been carved up into three Assembly districts, three Senate districts and two Congressional districts. It’s the result of Republicans bringing in more conservative constituents to bolster Congressman Sean Duffy’s 7th District seat that was formerly held by a Democrat. As a result, they kicked out some Democratic-leaning voters and gave them to Rep. Ron Kind in the 3rd District.

Why is this bad? It’s a process that cements the polarization of our politics. Conservative districts become more conservative, and liberal districts become more liberal. It squeezes out the voice of the middle and forces candidates to become even more extreme because they fear they won’t be elected.

So why should we care about the moderate voice? It represents a substantial viewpoint of our country. A recent Gallup poll showed 41 percent of those asked consider themselves to be conservative on economic issues, 37 percent moderate and 19 percent liberal. If our politics caters to those on either end of the spectrum, we miss more than one-third of our country. The gap is even narrower on social issues.

The two bills before the Legislature — Assembly Bill 185 and Senate Bill 163 — would emulate a process used in Iowa since 1980. The task of redrawing legislative and congressional boundaries would be up to the Legislative Reference Bureau, a nonpartisan body that drafts bills for the Legislature. The Legislature still would have final approval of the maps but with limited ability to amend them.

We urge Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Elections and Urban Affairs, and Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing, to schedule public hearings on Senate Bill 163 and Assembly Bill 185. Among the bills sponsors or co-sponsors are area Reps. Jill Billings, Chris Danou, Amy Sue Vruwink and Sen. Kathleen Vinehout.

We must not let these bills languish. It’s important to get the public engaged in discussing the idea of moving toward a nonpartisan process of determining legislative districts.

The alternative is to stay with the same flawed system that was used in 2011 when Republican legislative leaders spent taxpayer money to hire a law firm to draw the boundaries, a process so flawed and secretive that drew this comment from Republican-appointed Judge Judge J.P. Stadtmueller:

“The facts are the facts, and what has occurred here is beyond the pale in terms of lack of transparency (and) secrecy. Appearances are everything, and Wisconsin has prided itself one generation after another on openness and fairness in doing the right thing. And to be frank we have seen everything but that in the way this case has proceeded.”

Wisconsin citizens deserve better. It’s time to take the political power and influence out of redistricting.

(12) comments

ktrav

Saw this article on Facebook.

I'm from Colorado and the legislature finally put in a non-partisan commission in place just before the 2010 census. The result? A heavily leaning red state turned purple. The bigger result? The legislature started to work together.

On the surface, it looks like this has helped the Democrats more here. We do have a Dem governor but that's a statewide vote and districts have very little to do with that. We also have two Dem Senators and the same statewide vote applies. But the state senate and state house have both gone Dem majority. That has caused some extremists in the Republican Party to go overboard but this state (ANY state) could do without extremists no matter what side they're on. The Republicans will get back control someday but they're going to have to run on issues that the majority wants, not just what their party wants. They have to listen to ALL of their constituents now. That's a great thing.

restofstory

Did this ever happen when the democrats were in control?

Mobley

Just more cheating by the crybaby republicans. What's new?

otherwise

Redistricting allows a party to control the legislative process despite attracting a minority of votes in general elections.

On the national level for the past two decades, the US House of Representatives has operated largely on the so-called Hastert Rule which prevents a vote on any legislation which doesn't have support of "a majority of the majority". So if the majority party has 234 House members, a bill needs support of at least 118 of them to meet the threshold of eligibility for a House vote. Because of gerrymandered redistricting, Republicans are in control of this majority-of-the-majority rule even though they received a minority in the 2012 general US House elections by a margin of 1.4 million votes.

This, combined with the US Senate's filibuster rule which requires a 60 percent super-majority, allows a party with a minority of the election votes in both houses of Congress to obstruct or potentially to shut down the US government.

Aggressive radicals see beauty in this.

Jefferson Paine
Jefferson Paine

The only way the GOP can win is by rigging the system with gerrymandering, voter suppression and by pimping out the State to the Koch brothers and other interlopers..

retiredone

Jeffy-you cannot get a handle on the fact that the Demos have done exactly the same thing in the past. Learn a bit of history or quit the dumb posts.

retiredone

This issue is simply a result of elections. Wasn't it the head dummy in the White House that is quoted as saying "Elections have consequences". This is one

Here's a reminder of some of them CelticMan.

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/editorial/other-view-iowa-is-model-for-fair-electoral-maps/article_57d07022-7a1e-11e2-a77d-001a4bcf887a.html


http://lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/other-view-put-an-end-to-political-map-mischief/article_c026c0d6-35ae-11e2-933d-0019bb2963f4.html

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/other-view-need-for-redistricting-reform-not-a-surprise/article_19abedd2-dce2-11e1-aa8c-0019bb2963f4.html

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/our-view-redistricting-shouldn-t-be-partisan/article_5c47e9c0-5da8-11e1-b195-001871e3ce6c.html

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/other-view-state-redistricting-revelation-more-reason-for-reform/article_4d383a42-5359-11e1-944f-0019bb2963f4.html

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/our-view-city-council-votes-to-protect-itself/article_5c26075e-4b85-11e1-a7f2-001871e3ce6c.html

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/rusty-cunningham-bipartisanship-shouldn-t-be-ra

otherwise

"Why is this bad?"

Yes, gerrymandered redistricting has a polarizing effect. That's bad. Gerrymandering is a powerful tool for disenfranchisement of voters. That's worse. Secretive gerrymandering forces come from outside the states being secretively gerrymandered by secretive law firms operating under lawyer-client secrecy privileges, and tax-paying voters pay $millions for this secret process to have their votes manipulated. That's awful.

Quoting Judge Stadtmueller, the Trib notes this secrecy. Additional statements from the judges and exposure to gerrymandering forces from outside Wisconsin such as ALEC which is also shrouded in secrecy, are available:

http://www.prwatch.org/news/2013/02/11968/wisconsins-shameful-gerrymander-2012

In 2012 elections, Republicans controlled the US House with a 234-201 majority despite 1.4 million fewer votes, and Wisconsin Republicans won 5 of 8 House seats with 49% of the vote. That's the hardball political power hiding behind all the secrecy.

CelticMan

This won't happen unless the Republicans think they can's scruu us anymore.

Where were editorials like these when the redistricting was happening?

oz

They were out there. I remember them. You must not have bothered to read them.

Jefferson Paine
Jefferson Paine

Boy do you look stupid CelticMan

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