Monday, January 28, 2019

The Path to Ending Partisan Gerrymandering in Wisconsin Starts Now



For Release: Monday - January 28, 2019


Put Speaker Robin Vos's $850 K Raid on Taxpayers to Work for Fair Maps

The 2018 "mid-term" election last November brought significant and even sweeping change to the political landscape of Wisconsin. Yet, despite the ouster of Scott Walker and Brad Schimel from the state's two highest constitutional offices, and Democrats now in control of all five of them, the will of the voters was very decidedly not reflected in the 2018 state legislative and congressional elections.

Only one incumbent in the entire Wisconsin Legislature lost in November – a Democratic State Senator, Caleb Frostman, who had won the 1st Senate District in a special election only five months before in a district that had been gerrymandered to vastly favor Republicans. And in the 99-seat Assembly, every incumbent won and only one seat changed partisan hands – in Waukesha and Milwaukee counties. There, Democrat Robyn Vining won an open seat vacated by a Republican who ran and won in a gerrymandered State Senate seat – Dale Kooyenga.

Despite the fact that 54 percent of Wisconsin voters voted for Democratic candidates for the State Assembly, Democrats now hold only 36 of 99 seats. That disparity between votes cast and seats won may be the largest in the nation.

In our state's eight congressional districts, all incumbents were easily re-elected and not a single challenger came within ten percentage points of winning. Twenty years ago, six of nine Wisconsin congressional districts were considered competitive. Today, not one is competitive and hasn't been for the past eight years.

How is this incredible disparity between how Wisconsinites vote and who wins state legislative and congressional seats possible?

By now, virtually every Wisconsinite who pays any attention to politics and state government – and a great deal many more citizens know the answer. It's all due to the most partisan gerrymandering of state legislative districts by any state in the county, and one of the five most partisan gerrymanders in the past 50 years: the Republican redistricting process in Wisconsin eight years ago.

The lack of fair voting maps in Wisconsin robs every citizen of a viable choice between two major party candidates for legislative and congressional seats and, adding insult to injury, costs taxpayers millions of dollars without their consent, as GOP legislative leaders hire costly, out-of-state lawyers to defend their rigged, gerrymandered districts in the courts.

Just last week, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was compelled to finally make public a secret contract he signed in December to pay a pricey Chicago law firm $850,000 of your money to defend those 2011 maps in a federal trial that will begin in about six months. This outrageous arrogance is expressed eloquently in Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal editorial.

The total taxpayer burden for this misappropriation of scarce tax dollars is now approaching $4 million.

The overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites strongly support an end to partisan gerrymandering and favor the drawing of legislative and congressional district boundary lines by a non-partisan entity. In Wisconsin, the very best option for that would be the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau and it would do it in a way very much like our neighboring state of Iowa does. All reform organizations and all pro-reform legislators are united in support of the "Iowa Plan" legislation which will soon be introduced by State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and State Rep Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa).

Last week, a Marquette University Law School Poll was released detailing that overwhelming pubic support for non-partisan redistricting. Support for ending partisan gerrymandering was lopsided even among Republicans in Wisconsin. Here's what the poll analysis said:
"Seventy-two percent of voters say they prefer redistricting of legislative and congressional districts to be done by a nonpartisan commission, while 18 percent prefer redistricting be done by the legislature and governor. Majorities in each partisan group favor a nonpartisan commission for redistricting, with 63 percent of Republicans including leaners, 83 percent of Democrats including leaners, and 76 percent of independents favoring a nonpartisan commission. Less than 30 percent of each group preferred redistricting be done by the legislature and governor, with support for the current system coming from 27 percent of Republicans including leaners, 10 percent of Democrats including leaners, and 10 percent of independents."
So the only folks supporting Vos and State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) in their quest to deny the vast majority of Wisconsinites the ability to be able to vote in fair map districts are the very hard core partisans who would rather have a rigged system favoring one party over a fair system in which the voters decide.

What can citizens do now to advance fair maps and hasten the end of the most partisan gerrymandered process in the United States?

First encourage new Governor Tony Evers to use his "bully pulpit" to speak out in support of the Iowa model and to include funding in his upcoming 2019-2021 state budget for the Legislative Reference Bureau so they can begin to prepare for the 2021 redistricting process. The $850,000 Robin Vos wants to defend his indefensible, partisan 2011 voter maps would be a good initial source for this funding.

Call both your State Senator and State Representative and demand that they not only support and co-sponsor the forthcoming legislation to be introduced by Sen. Hansen and Rep. Vining, but that they make this issue a top priority for this legislative session. Make sure it is at the top of their "to do" list for 2019.

Sign this petition in support of the Iowa Model legislation, if you haven't yet done so yet. If you have, urge others to sign it. We would like to present the Legislature with 5,000 signatures from all over Wisconsin in the near future.

And finally. Never give up. When CC/WI started this concentrated effort six years ago, we knew it was going to take years of hard work to build public support for ending partisan gerrymandering in this state.

Now, the public overwhelmingly supports fair voting maps.

What we need to do next is to force our elected representatives to listen and to heed our will. We need all of you to make this happen.

On Wisconsin!




CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Friday, January 4, 2019

Janesville City Council Member Elected to State Government Watchdog Board



For Release: Friday - January 4, 2019


Sue Conley Joins Common Cause in Wisconsin State Governing Board

Janesville City Council member and community activist Sue Conley was elected to the State Governing Board of Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI), the state's largest non-partisan political reform advocacy organization with more than 10,000 members and activists, at its last meeting during 2018.

Conley, a member of the Janesville City Council since 2017 and the long-time executive director of the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin until she retired in 2014, was interested in becoming part of CC/WI because of her concern over the direction state government has taken, particularly over the past eight years.

"This state was once considered a national model for honest, clean, open and transparent state government and politics, but like so many other Wisconsinites, I am very concerned that we have lost our way, and lost the confidence of many Wisconsinites over the past eight years," she said. "CC/WI's good work and track record in the promotion of voting rights, ending partisan gerrymandering of state legislative and congressional districts, and in advocating for less money in politics, more transparency, better ethics and greater bipartisan cooperation is what is much needed in this state, and I am honored to have been elected to help lead in these efforts," Conley added.

Former State Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville has been the Chair of the CC/WI for the past two years. "Sue Conley brings years of valuable experience and expertise to our quest to once again transform Wisconsin into a state its citizens can have confidence in and be proud of. She is a terrific and dynamic addition to our efforts," he said.

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CONTACT:

Jay Heck
608/256-2686 (office)
608/512-9363 (cell)




Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 W. Johnson St., Suite 212
Madison, WI  53703
608/256-2686

Want Good Government?
Join Common Cause in Wisconsin!
www.CommonCauseWisconsin.org



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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

In the News - January 2019





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