Save Taxes With Nonpartisan Redistricting
State taxpayers charged more than $2 million to defend unconstitutional districts.
In a victory for voters last fall, a federal court ruled Wisconsin’s legislative districts unconstitutional and ordered the Wisconsin legislature to redraw voting districts. With the deadline for the new maps now just five months off, Attorney General Schimel has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of the requirement to draw new voting maps, saying that Wisconsin should not have to “invest the considerable time, effort and taxpayer resources” to comply with the order.
Actually, Wisconsin taxpayers have already “invested” more than $2.1 million dollars to have the unconstitutional districts drawn in secret by a private law firm and then litigated through two lawsuits. The costs continue to spiral now that the case is in the U.S. Supreme Court. We learned recently that taxpayers are on the hook for an additional $175,000 to have private law firms write amicus briefs defending the maps in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile our neighbors in Iowa have had a legislative agency draw their voting maps since the 1980s at a small fraction of what Wisconsin taxpayers have “invested.” The Iowa maps produced this way have not been challenged in the courts because they have not been drawn to favor one party or the other. This saves taxpayers millions of dollars.
The Wisconsin legislature should adopt a plan similar to that in Iowa. Further, lawmakers should apply the Iowa plan now to redraw the unconstitutional districts.
There are currently proposals before the Wisconsin legislature, Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44, that would have our Legislative Reference Bureau, the nonpartisan service agency which drafts all legislation, to create new maps. The LRB 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 also provides for public input, requiring the LRB to hold at least three public hearings about the plan and report on the hearings to the legislature. The legislature would then bring the redistricting bill to a vote shortly after receiving the report, with only corrective amendments allowed. If the initial plan is rejected, the agency must submit a second version in a timely manner. Again, the legislature votes, with only corrective amendments allowed.
Since its creation in 1980, this process in Iowa has operated smoothly and with the support of both parties. Each decade the legislature has enacted the first or second proposed plan. The result in Iowa is some of the most competitive districts in the nation. In Wisconsin, by contrast, none of our congressional districts are considered competitive, and Common Cause in Wisconsin reported in 2016 that just one in ten of our legislative districts could be considered competitive. That discourages good people from running for office and offers Wisconsin voters less choice on Election Day.
Proposals to adopt the Iowa plan have been introduced in the past three legislative sessions, but majority leaders in the Assembly and Senate have not even allowed a public hearing for these bills. These bills deserve a hearing and a vote.
It is high time for Wisconsin to adopt nonpartisan redistricting so that voters can have confidence that they are not being manipulated by politicians seeking an unfair partisan advantage. We encourage citizens to call their state representatives in support of SB13/AB44.
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. Lindsay Dorff is Fair Maps co-leader of Citizen Action Northeast Wisconsin Organizing Cooperative. Follow @LWV_WI on Twitter.
More about the Gerrymandering of Legislative Districts
- Data Wonk: Many Republicans Oppose Gerrymandering - Bruce Thompson - Mar 14th, 2018
- The State of Politics: Will U.S. Supremes Rule on State Districts? - Steven Walters - Feb 19th, 2018
- Back in the News: Majority Now Backs Fair Redistricting - Bruce Murphy - Feb 5th, 2018
- Data Wonk: John Roberts’ Nightmare - Bruce Thompson - Oct 11th, 2017
- The State of Politics: You Be The Judge on Redistricting - Steven Walters - Oct 2nd, 2017
- Op Ed: U.S. Supreme Court Should End Partisan Gerrymandering - Andrea Kaminski - Sep 26th, 2017
- Data Wonk: Judges Consider a Democratic Gerrymander - Bruce Thompson - Aug 30th, 2017
- Op Ed: 24 Counties Have Voted for Fair Maps - Matt Rothschild - Aug 25th, 2017
- Data Wonk: Right Wing Seeks to End Democracy? - Bruce Thompson - Aug 23rd, 2017
- Data Wonk: US Supreme Court Wrong on Redistricting? - Bruce Thompson - May 31st, 2017
- Op Ed: Save Taxes With Nonpartisan Redistricting - Andrea Kaminski and Lindsay Dorff - May 26th, 2017
- Data Wonk: Why GOP Backs Gerrymander - Bruce Thompson - May 24th, 2017
- Data Wonk: State’s Political Map At Issue - Bruce Thompson - May 18th, 2017
- Rep. Peter Barca Statement on Attorney General Appeal of Redistricting Decision - State Rep. Peter Barca - Feb 24th, 2017
- Fair Elections Project calls upon Legislature to focus on fair map drawing process - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Feb 24th, 2017
- Campaign Cash: GOP’s Redistricting Lawyers Are Big Donors - Matt Rothschild - Feb 6th, 2017
- Op Ed: Reject Partisanship, Redraw Voting Maps - Andrea Kaminski - Feb 3rd, 2017
- Rep. Peter Barca Statement on Assembly Organization Committee Secret Ballot - State Rep. Peter Barca - Feb 2nd, 2017
- Court Watch: Court’s Redistricting Order A Problem? - Bruce Thompson - Feb 1st, 2017
- Rep. Hesselbein Calls for Open, Transparent, and Public Process for Drawing New Legislative Lines - State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein - Jan 27th, 2017
- Wisconsin Federal Court Permanently Blocks State Redistricting Plan - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Jan 27th, 2017
- Data Wonk: 2016 Election Results Prove Gerrymandering - Bruce Thompson - Dec 28th, 2016
- Plaintiffs call for new maps for Wisconsin legislative district - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Dec 21st, 2016
- Data Wonk: Measuring Wisconsin’s Gerrymandering - Bruce Thompson - Dec 7th, 2016
- Sen. Taylor statement on federal court ruling against Republican gerrymandering - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Nov 21st, 2016
- Statement on Redistricting Ruling - State Sen. Chris Larson - Nov 21st, 2016
- Federal Court overturns unconstitutional gerrymandering of Wisconsin legislative districts - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Nov 21st, 2016
- Rep. Barca Statement on Redistricting Decision - State Rep. Peter Barca - Nov 21st, 2016
- HISTORIC DECISION: Wisconsin Federal Court Strikes Down Partisan Gerrymander and Adopts Groundbreaking Legal Standard - Campaign Legal Center - Nov 21st, 2016
- Murphy’s Law: The Myth of Democratic Gerrymandering - Bruce Murphy - Jan 26th, 2016
- Data Wonk: Can New Approach End Gerrymandering? - Bruce Thompson - Jan 6th, 2016
- Federal Lawsuit to Overturn Unconstitutional Gerrymandering of Wisconsin Legislative Districts Continues - Wisconsin Fair Elections Project - Dec 17th, 2015
- Can Auto Redistricting End Gerrymandering? - Laura Thompson - Dec 10th, 2015
- Assembly candidate Brostoff calls for non-partisan redistricting - State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff - Apr 17th, 2014
- Redistricting reform the antidote to Republican extremism - Press Release - Nov 13th, 2013
- Lazich, August, Fitzgerald and Vos Still Silent on Redistricting Reform Public Hearings As Support & Pressure Builds - Common Cause in Wisconsin - Sep 17th, 2013
- Freshmen legislators push new legislation to correct flawed partisan redistricting process - Press Release - Apr 11th, 2013