Thursday, July 7, 2022

The 2021-2022 Republican Gerrymander in Wisconsin and the Upcoming November Election

Thursday - July 7, 2022

Cartoon by Phil Hands for the Wisconsin State Journal

Which Side are Candidates for WI State Office On?

In 2011, shortly after the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker rammed through into law the most secretive, expensive (to taxpayers), unfair and hyper partisan redistricting process in the history of Wisconsin and the most partisan of any state in the nation that year, Common Cause in Wisconsin (CC/WI) began to determine how to avoid a similar disaster from being repeated in the next redistricting process -- in 2021-22. CC/WI began the process of uniting pro- redistricting reform state legislators of both political parties, such as former State Senators Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and numerous State Representatives behind a single reform measure, best suited for Wisconsin.
That measure was based on the non-partisan redistricting process that our neighboring state of Iowa had enacted into law and put into place in 1980 under a Republican-controlled Legislature and a Republican Governor (Robert Ray). It made perfect sense for Wisconsin to emulate Iowa as both states have similar state constitutions which specify that the state legislature in each state must have the final say in determining (voting for) the boundaries of newly drawn state legislative and congressional districts but both state constitutions are silent on what entity can actually draw and determine the district lines.
Republicans (and Democrats) in Iowa, to better serve their taxpaying voters and reduce partisan wrangling and expensive litigation, ceded that specific responsibility to a non-partisan civil service entity called the Iowa Legislative Services Agency (LSA), which draws new state legislative and congressional district boundaries according to a very strict and specific set of non-partisan criteria and without any interference from the partisan elected state legislators whose districts the LSA are altering. Those criteria include keeping counties, cities, towns, and communities of interest intact and together, to the extent possible, something partisan Wisconsin Republican gerrymandering map-drawers routinely ignore. In Iowa, past election results are not viewed or considered when the LSA draws its maps, whereas in Wisconsin, preserving and expanding partisan political advantage and power is the primary consideration of GOP legislative leaders. Fairness and preserving the confidence of Iowa voters in the redistricting process is the overarching principle guiding the Iowa LSA and Iowa legislators and Governors of both political parties. Preserving and expanding hyper partisan political power and control and ignoring what is good for voters and democracy are the drivers of Republican legislative leaders (Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu) and their highly paid, gerrymandering map drawers in Wisconsin.
What a sharp contrast in the results of the redistricting processes in the two states this year!
In Iowa, Republicans, who possessed majorities in both state legislative chambers and the Governorship, came together with legislative Democrats to pass state legislative and congressional voting maps -- drawn by the nonpartisan Iowa LSA -- with near unanimity. No litigation, no lawsuits, no added cost to Iowa taxpayers.
In Wisconsin, majority Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature rammed through their hyper partisan state legislative and congressional voting maps (even more unfair and slanted in their favor than in 2011) without a single Democratic vote. They were vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers and then went to both the conservative majority dominated U.S. Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. With significant cost and burden to Wisconsin taxpayers.
The ultimate outcome of that expensive process (costing Wisconsin taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars) was that while Wisconsin's eight congressional district voting maps are a bit less unfair and partisan than in 2011 (and we now have two "competitive" congressional districts in the state), our state's 99 Assembly districts and 33 State Senate districts are now tilted even more unfairly in favor of Republicans. Wisconsin's redistricting process was one of the most polarizing, unfair, costly (for taxpayers) and undemocratic of any in the nation during 2021-22. Iowa’s process was one of the most fair and least litigious or costly to Iowa voters.
And yet, the overall outcome in Wisconsin could have been even worse were it not for the tremendous energy, participation and support for a fairer and more non-partisan redistricting process on the part of thousands of engaged, dedicated Wisconsinites.
CC/WI, our members, and other organizations were united behind the "Iowa Model" redistricting reform proposal, and we built a strong network of support for redistricting reform far surpassing anything that existed in Wisconsin just a decade ago. And the fight for a fair, non-partisan redistricting process continues.
This year -- a critical election year in Wisconsin -- CC/WI will do what we have done in every election since 2012 -- issue a call for the support and willingness to co-sponsor "Iowa Model" redistricting reform legislation -- of all candidates for the Wisconsin Assembly and State Senate in 2022. We will issue this call after the August partisan primary so that voters will know who supports a fair, non-partisan redistricting process and who supports the corrupt status quo.
We will also list the positions on redistricting reform (specifically the "Iowa Model") of the statewide candidates for public office in Wisconsin.
Those candidates (both incumbents and challengers) who proactively contact CC/WI in support of "Iowa Model" redistricting reform legislation will be included on a "master list" of pro-reform, pro-democracy, pro-voter candidates that will continually be updated and made available to the media and the public, at large. Those who fail to contact us will not be listed as redistricting reform supporters.
For your information, here is a link to CC/WI's testimony in the Wisconsin Legislature last Fall on the hyper partisan, unfair Republican gerrymandered state legislative and congressional voting maps. The state legislative maps were eventually approved by conservatives on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Please contact us with any questions or comments you may have about redistricting reform and gerrymandering. There will be more on all of this later in the Summer.
Jay Heck


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

Common Cause in Wisconsin
152 Johnson St, Suite 212
Madison, WI 53703

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