Monday, November 26, 2012

Redistricting Reform Emerging as Top Priority Political Reform for 2013

Press Release
November 26, 2012

Jay Heck – 608/256-2686


It won't happen again until 2021. But reform of the redistricting process needs to begin early in 2013 for it to be in place the next time state legislative and congressional districts are redrawn -- as they must be every ten years to reflect the population changes that emanate from the Census. The redistricting process in 2011 was one of the most partisan, secretive and expensive (to Wisconsin taxpayers) of any in Wisconsin's history. It produced fewer competitive state legislative and congressional districts than Wisconsin had prior to 2011 -- which were not all that many to begin with.

An analysis by Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) of the election results this past November 6th reveals that only one of the16 Wisconsin State Senate seats up for grabs was even remotely competitive. CC/WI defines "competitive" as an election in which the winning percentage of the vote was no larger than 55 and the losing percentage no less than 45. Only the 18th State Senate District met that criteria, in which Republican challenger Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac narrowly edged out incumbent Democratic State Senator Jessica King of Oshkosh by less than 600 votes. No other State Senate election was even remotely close. Republicans seized control of the State Senate 18 to 15 seats.

In the State Assembly, CC/WI found that only 14 of the 99 Assembly elections in 2012 fell into the "competitive" category, with Republicans winning 11 of those contests and Democrats, three. Republicans now hold 60 seats and Democrats, 39. Only one incumbent Member of the Assembly (and who was not forced to run against another incumbent) lost -- Republican Roger Rivard of Rice Lake. Obviously, the 2011 redistricting process left little choice for most Wisconsinites when it came to choosing state legislators. Most districts were utterly uncompetitive.

There were no incumbent losses among Wisconsin's eight Members of Congress and no remotely close elections. Every congressional district can now be considered uncompetitive and "safe" for the incumbents. No real choices for Wisconsin voters. As recently as 1998, there were five competitive congressional districts. Today there are none. Members of Congress and of the Wisconsin Legislature choose their voters. Voters now have virtually no say as to who represents them in Madison and in Washington, D.C.

But there is support building both in the Wisconsin Legislature and by citizens to reform this disgraceful state of affairs. During the 2011-2012 legislative session, CC/WI led the effort for redistricting reform and was the only state reform organization to have political reform legislation actually written and introduced -- including a measure to reform the redistricting process. We will be doing so again in early 2013.

Yesterday, the state's largest newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, issued this strong editorial in support of redistricting reform. Read it, please. Earlier, the state's second largest newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal, issued this strong editorial in support of redistricting reform.

And at the November 13th CC/WI State Governing Board meeting in Madison, State Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) explained why redistricting reform is so badly needed and how he plans to work with State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) as well as with CC/WI to advance this reform in the months ahead. You can listen to and view his comments to the board and answers to our questions here.

We need your help, too.

Please contact both your State Senator and your State Representative and tell them that Redistricting Reform is a priority for you in 2013. And hold them to it. Here is how to contact your legislators. If you are not sure who your State Senator and/or State Representative is, go here.

At the November 13th meeting, CC/WI also voted to move forward with a number of other political reforms in addition to redistricting reform. Our reform priorities in 2013 include: disclosure of outside special interest electioneering contributions and spending; prohibiting all campaign fund raising by legislators and legislative committees while the state budget is under consideration; eliminating legislative leadership campaign committees to get corrupting campaign cash completely out of the State Capitol; pushing Wisconsin to support amending the U.S. Constitution in order to overturn the disastrous 2010 Citizens United vs. F.E.C. decision and to stipulate that money does not equal speech and that corporations are not persons; drastic revision of the unconstitutional and far-too extreme and restrictive Wisconsin photo voter ID law; and finally, an examination of State Supreme Court elections and judicial selection in general.

Details of these CC/WI reform initiatives will be forthcoming in the weeks and month ahead prior to 2013.

Stay tuned.


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


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