Thursday, September 12, 2013

Redistricting Reform Proponents Continue Push for Public Hearings and Will Not be Deterred

Press Release
September 12, 2013

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686

Redistricting Reform Proponents Continue Push for Public Hearings
and Will Not be Deterred

Tuesday's Capitol Press Conference received blanket media coverage and the participants resolved to keep fighting to get redistricting reform legislation (Senate Bill 163/Assembly Bill 185) at least a public hearing -- even in the face of seemingly intractable opposition to the legislation by State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and by Assembly Speaker Robin Voss (R-Rochester).

No one expects Fitzgerald or Vos to change their minds (although they should) and support redistricting reform any time soon. But to block even a public hearing on the legislation -- so that the citizens of Wisconsin can hear all sides of this important issue -- is just arrogance -- and certainly not in keeping with the rich tradition of open, accountable state government that Wisconsin was for a long time (but no longer) known for and revered nationally. That arrogance is, as one of the participants said, at the very heart of the reason why redistricting reform is so needed in Wisconsin.

State Senators Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) and Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) were joined by Common Cause in Wisconsin Board Chair Bill Kraus, a former Republican strategist and top aide to former Republican Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus, and long-time CC/WI Board Member Dave Martin, a former Republican State Representative from Neenah and the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 1970.

Also on hand at the press conference were blown up maps of the congressional and state legislative districts of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa to demonstrate the contrast between the gerrymandered, hyper-partisan boundary lines of districts drawn by majority Republicans in Wisconsin and majority Democrats in Illinois contrasted with those maps drawn by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency in Iowa.

Wisconsin and Illinois featured oddly shaped, contorted districts with long slivers and the division of counties and even towns and villages in order to achieve maximum partisan political advantage for the partisan map drawers.

The Iowa maps contain mainly squares and rectangles with communities of interest and counties by and large kept intact.
They are drawn with no consideration given to partisan advantage and with a goal of making sense to the citizens of Iowa by keeping communities together when at all possible. Contrast that with Wisconsin where, for example, the relatively small city of Beloit has been carved up among two Assembly districts as has Sheboygan.

The result is that in Iowa there are far more competitive general elections for the State Legislature and for Congress in Iowa than there are in Wisconsin -- despite being half our size. In fact there are zero competitive congressional districts of Wisconsin's eight. Half of Iowa's four are quite competitive. The cost to taxpayers for non-partisan districts is negligible. In Wisconsin, taxpayers have been forced to shell out about $2 million for hyper-partisan, non-competitive congressional and state legislative redistricting. No one checked with us to see if that was okay. How about with you?

It is well worth your time to view Tuesday's entire Capitol press conference here on WisconsinEye.

Additional television coverage is here. Wisconsin Public Radio's coverage of the event is here and the Wisconsin Radio Network's coverage is here.

Other media coverage is here.

Here is the pathetic statement that Scott Fitzgerald put out within an hour of the press conference on Tuesday. His aides attended the event but obviously don't understand what the redistricting reform legislation contains because their criticism is about things that are not even part of the legislation. That's just sad.

After the press conference, CC/WI Director Jay Heck spent a half-hour on statewide Wisconsin Public Radio talking about redistricting reform and you can hear that here (interview starts at 34:17).

As CC/WI Board Chair Bill Kraus would say: "Are you mad yet?" Mad that the legislative leadership won't even allow a public hearing on redistricting reform legislation but won't say why? That is maddening.

Contact Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos and let them know that you are "mad as hell and you are not going to take it anymore."

A public hearing is not too much to ask for. It is the very least they should do.

Again, as the Appleton Post-Crescent said in their excellent editorial about this subject in August: ". . . we're not going away. Redistricting reform is not going to be swept under the rug." This has become our mantra. Make it yours too.

Are you with us?


Jay Heck, Executive Director
Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703


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