State Rep. Katrina Shankland
Op-Ed

Republicans Not Serious About Redistricting Reform

Assembly committee to address the issue is really a sham. The issue will never get a hearing.

By - Apr 4th, 2016 11:56 am
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Kathy Bernier. Photo from the State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2015-16.

Kathy Bernier. Photo from the State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2015-16.

With a three-year-old promise left unkept, Representative Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) made headlines this week by scheduling an informational hearing on the issue of non-partisan redistricting reform. Before rushing to shower praise on Bernier, who has chaired the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections for the last four years, journalists, editorial boards, and Wisconsin taxpayers should keep this in mind: the Republican-led legislature has already made clear the legislative floor period is over for 2016. Republicans have packed up their bags to get back on the campaign trail, so there is no actual chance of redistricting reform moving forward this year. Additionally, Friday’s hearing is not open to members of the public to testify and there is no actual bill before the committee for consideration. While Bernier and Republicans may try to sell this as a legitimate hearing and discussion on the issue of redistricting reform, I’m not buying it and you shouldn’t either.

This move is politics at its worst, as Bernier finds herself on the outs with her district after telling her constituents that meeting with them is “worse than going to the dentist.” This fake hearing should not be construed as a legitimate hearing. By not allowing for public testimony and no actual legislation being considered, this can only be construed as a meeting to give Bernier and Republicans the talking point that she has acted on the issue of redistricting reform.

It’s fitting that Bernier scheduled the hearing on April 1, a day when so many Americans dedicate to playing tricks on their friends, family, and colleagues. With the legislature not actually in session, the people of Wisconsin shouldn’t fall for Bernier’s political trick. Where was this in September and October of last year while Republicans worked at break-neck speed to eviscerate our government watchdog and re-write our state’s campaign finance laws to flood even more dark money into elections? Bernier pushed those proposals through her committee in a matter of days — yet she sat on a redistricting proposal that would bring more accountability to state government until after the legislature concluded their legislative work period.

It’s a simple belief of the majority of Wisconsin voters: politicians shouldn’t choose their constituents by being able to draw their own district maps. Voters should choose their representatives, period. Redistricting authority should be placed with an independent, non-partisan entity so no politician can get their grubby hands on a map to gerrymander to their benefit. Nonpartisan redistricting would lead to a government more reflective of the electorate and would create more competitive legislative races, raising the level of engagement across the Badger State. Most importantly, the people of Wisconsin’s voices would be heard again, regardless of where they live. If Republicans are so confident they are doing the people’s work and are truly beating Democrats on the merits of their ideas, they should move forward with implementing an independent redistricting process. Republicans should get out of the way and let the people’s voices be heard.

Bernier’s move to schedule this hearing without considering an actual bill while the legislature is out of session makes me wonder if she is as crooked as the legislative lines her party’s bosses drew. But the people of Wisconsin aren’t so easily fooled, and they should take the opportunity to call their representatives and ask them to commit to supporting nonpartisan redistricting reform.

Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, represents the 71st Assembly District.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

5 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Republicans Not Serious About Redistricting Reform”

  1. tomw says:

    There is terror afoot and professional politicians are fearful of confronting it. The notion of real non-partisan redistricting reform strikes such fear in both parties for it would mean removing the facade of representation and opening up the possibility of a solution based politics. Right now we are confronted with ideological gridlock forced upon us by gerrymandered “representatives” who represent a few but ignore the rest. While it frustrates me, compromise is not a word that cannot be uttered in mixed company! It is what democracy ought be about. AND straight lines should dominate district boundaries not the crazy quilt of drunken cow paths we currently see on our representative and senatorial district maps. BUT regardless of party, all who seek a career in elected office rather than service prefer the gerrymandered present or future maps. Redistricting should begin with, maybe, retired judges or even just plain old citizens tasked to divide their state by population numbers and understanding constitutional mandates for representation being fair and just! Then careers could be built but built on results, success at addressing community needs not ideology. peace, tw

  2. Peter Gordy says:

    If you will excuse the rhetorical question: Why should the Republicans in the Legislature–ours and others’–be serious about redistricting reform when the current gerrymandered districts are serving them so well? Moreover, nobody in the partyu has publicly rejected Karl Rove’s call for a Republican “permanent majority” (read permanent one-party rule) or Mr. Cheney’s chilling “unitary presidency,” that is, the removal of the separation of powers, with resulting checks and balances intended to limit the accumulation of power by any governmental unit–in short, ,unimpeded presidential power. Republican Party elites have never rejected these concepts and, in the case of Mr. Cheney, who continues to mourn the resignation of President Nixon in 1974, he seems to have taken seriously Nixon’s claim that “if the President does it, it’s right”

    So, it is hardly a surprise that Republicans here are not serious about redistricting reform. What nauseates me is the transparent, shambolic charade constructed to fool the unwary and sympathetic editorial writers into thinking that elected Republicans will actually do something tht will enfranchise people of color, people of limited income, and Democrats–i.e., people who would probably vote against them.

  3. Kevin Baas says:

    One of my scripts just completed this map today:

    http://autoredistrict.org/all50/version2/CD_PRES/CD_NOW/map_district_partisan_packing_area.png

    (Minus Pennsylvania and oregon)

    This is voter disenfranchisement due to gerrymandering per capita. Blue = democrat, red = republican.

    Notice I multiplied the colors by 10 so that the red showed up.

    Pretty clear why republicans do t want to end gerrymandering.

  4. Kevin Baas says:

    …you can’t see inner city Milwaukee on that map because it’s too small, but spoiler alert: it’s deep blue. It’s of those districts whose color value got cut off at 100% because it was way over the threshold.

  5. Kevin Baas says:

    @tomw: you said “all” who seek a career in elected office prefer gerrymandered maps. While the proof is in that most do, or at least most of our present elected officials do, to say that “all do” is securing being wrong.

    It is very rare that “all” or “none” do anything. For instance, one might be tempted to say that all scientists understand the basics of climate science, but we know that at least four do not (though their credential are questionable). “All” is a high-stakes bet.

    And in this case, I can provide sufficient proof to the contrary: I have discussed Auto-Redistrict with my state congressman, Jonathan Brostoff, and while he understands that it literally puts his job in jeopardy (it makes elections more competitive), he nonetheless has said that he supports it and approved of me saying so.

    So you see, there are always exceptions.

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