Democrats Rejected Redistricting Reform
Legislative leaders rejected reforms proposed in 2009-2010 session.
Democratic legislative leaders instantly condemned last week’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the lawsuit challenging district boundaries Republicans drew in 2011 that punted the case back to lower courts.
“Republican efforts to suppress voters, restrict voting rights and rig elections through gerrymandered maps have demonstrated just how desperate they’ve become to cling to power,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling.
She added: “Despite this delay, Democrats will continue to champion non-partisan redistricting reform to empower citizens and restore fairness to our election process.”
“It is now up to the next governor and Legislature to take up non-partisan redistricting reform,” said Assembly Democratic Leader Gordon Hintz. “Wisconsinites know that voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.
“Wisconsin has a rich tradition of electing candidates and majorities from both parties,” he added. “In recent years, Republicans have denied voters the right to choose their representatives to suppress public opposition of their extreme agenda.”
Question: What action did Democrats take in the 2009-10 session – the last time they controlled the Capitol with Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle in the East Wing and Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature – to reform the process of drawing new legislative district lines every 10 years based on new Census numbers?
Nothing. Well, next to nothing.
In the 2009-10 session, Assembly Joint Resolution 29 (AJR 29), sponsored by five of the 52 Assembly Democrats and only one of the 18 Senate Democrats, would have started the three- or four-year process of amending the State Constitution to take the power of drawing new districts away from the political party then controlling the Capitol.
AJR 29 got a public hearing on Nov. 17, 2009, but no vote – either in committee or in the Assembly or Senate, records show. It died when the session ended on April 22, 2010.
Shilling and Hintz were in the Assembly in the 2009-10 session, but were not leaders who could have forced a vote on AJR 29 or any bill on redistricting reform. Hintz was a cosponsor of AJR 29.
Last week, four Democratic leaders in the 2009-10 session were asked why redistricting reform went nowhere: Senate President Fred Risser, Senate President Pro Tempore Pat Kreitlow, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dave Hansen and Rep. Fred Kessler, the Milwaukee Democrat who has been a national consultant on the issue.
Only Hansen responded.
“I don’t recall the subject of redistricting coming up in [the Senate Democratic] caucus,” Hansen said, adding: “I think most of our efforts were focused on trying to get the economy back on its feet after the Wall Street-led global economic crash.
“I’m sure, had we known how far the Republicans and Gov. Walker would go to cement their power and how that would translate into the policies they would later adopt, it would have led to some type of action on a fair redistricting plan.”
Still, passing redistricting reform – if it only was a first step toward changing the constitution – would have given Democrats the right to claim they had taken the issue very seriously when they had the chance.
Democratic Rep. Jeff Smith, of Eau Claire, chaired the Assembly Elections and Campaign Reform Committee that held the November 2009 hearing on AJR 29. He lost his third-term bid in 2010. Smith, now running for the State Senate, said last week he was told that no redistricting reforms were going to pass the 2009-10 session.
“Every party that comes into power, their leaders … are convinced – as my legislative leaders were – ‘Oh, we’re going to draw the [next] lines’,” Smith said in a WisconsinEye campaign interview.
Smith said he and now-retired Democratic Rep. Spencer Black repeatedly pushed Assembly party leaders to act on redistricting reform. They refused.
“I wanted [reform] to pass,” Smith added.
“Unfortunately, those Democratic leaders learned a hard lesson,” Smith said, referring to maps that punished Democrats enacted by Republican legislators and signed into laws by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011.
Whether the Constitution is amended or state law is changed to allow the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau to draw new districts that legislators must then approve, the long-term goal is the same.
The process, Smith said, must be taken “out of the hands of legislators.”
More about the Gerrymandering of Legislative Districts
- The State of Wasted Votes - Malia Jones - Jul 2nd, 2018
- Data Wonk: Can Democrats Still Contest Gerrymander? - Bruce Thompson - Jun 27th, 2018
- The State of Politics: Democrats Rejected Redistricting Reform - Steven Walters - Jun 25th, 2018
- Supreme Court Punts on Gerrymandering - Shawn Johnson - Jun 18th, 2018
- Republican State Leadership Committee: The Efficiency Gap is “Sociological Gobbledygook” - Republican State Leadership Committee - Jun 18th, 2018
- Response to Gill v Whitford decision to remand back to trial court - Fair Elections Project - Jun 18th, 2018
- The Art Of Gerrymandering Milwaukee - Malia Jones - Jun 9th, 2018
- The Push for Nonpartisan Redistricting - Cathleen Draper - Jun 5th, 2018
- U.S. Supreme Court Nears Decision on Wisconsin Redistricting Case - Cathleen Draper - Jun 2nd, 2018
- 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