Monday, February 28, 2011

Gerrymandering: The Next Protest

isconsin Political Fix
not just another blog
February 28, 2011

By Bill Kraus

The next protest will be about the two thirds (or more) of the state’s voters who are, have been, and will be ideologically disenfranchised by gerrymandered redistricting.

The facts, roughly, are that two senior members of the congressional delegation have reduced the number of congressional districts where a candidate from either party has a real chance to be elected to one.

The state Legislature is less orderly about reducing the numbers of Senate and Assembly districts where the voters pick their representatives than vice versa, but their messy process has produced the same kind of pre-ordination. The results there are that one-third of the Legislature is elected in July when only one candidate files nomination papers for the job.

Another one-third are elected in September when more than one candidate from the gerrymander-favored party dukes it out for that party’s nomination and a sure victory in the November finals.

That leaves one-third of the voters who get to pick a Republican or Democrat to represent them. Actually, it’s really more like one-third of this one-third who live in a district where there will be a real contest for those few seats.

It’s easy to tell if you’re in that last one-third of the one-third. You will have a TV commercial every minute for the entire election and will see big spending in every way and every medium by the candidates themselves and by outsiders who are seeking advantage where advantage can be bought, they hope.

This, of course, is why the contested elections are reduced to this smaller number. There is only so much money to go around. The more safe seats there are where strenuous electioneering and big spending is needed the less the desired disenfranchisement. Reduce the battleground elections and save money.

There is, of course, no way to make every state legislative race competitive. If you don’t believe this I invite you to frustrate yourself, try running a Republican for the state Assembly in Portage County or a Democrat in Green Lake County.

The fact is though that we could get much more competition into these races than we currently have.

It would be cheap and easy. All that needs to be done is to take the drawing of legislative district lines out of the hands of the Legislature.

Iowa did this decades ago.

They have many more competitive races, many fewer places where the fix is in.

Thanks to our neighbors to the west we don’t even have to re-invent the wheel. All we have to do is adopt the Iowa plan.

If we do this, we will take one more divisive issue off the legislative agenda. We will also save the state money that otherwise will be spent to get experts to carve us up into docile districts that favor whichever party that happens to be in the majority at the end of each census taking decade.

More importantly we will free legislators’ time to deal with the problems that affect us--the voters--instead of just the problems that affect them.

Ready to protest yet?

If so, start painting signs and telling the good government groups to do something beyond wailing and gnashing their teeth about the Supreme Court’s indifference to the collateral damage of their recent decisions about money in politics. The Supreme Court is not going to change its mind about money and is not involved in redistricting legislation.

This is something your legislators can do. It is unlikely that they will, however, unless large numbers of us make it clear that we would like our franchise back. We would prefer to pick our legislators instead of having them pick us.

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Steve Gores said...

Gerrymandering is probably the biggest threat to a thriving two party system today. It allows legislators to pick their voters not the other way around!!! So called "safe seats" discourage otherwise qualified candidates from even attempting a challenge and results in many, many uncontested elections. This is bad for democracy and bad for taxpayers!!!!

Valerie said...

I like campaign finance reform, this gerrymandering reform might be another avenue to get a similar result. After I check out the details, I will write my representatives. I wonder if some of the Republicans will sign on to this- The voter ID nonsense shows that many of them are willing to adopt policies that will disenfranchise vulnerable demographics without just cause.