Tuesday, October 31, 2023

In The News - October 2023

Redistricting Legislation and Constitutional Amendments
October 26, 2023 - Greg Stensland, Between the Lines, WFDL fm radio

Democrats, fair maps advocates assail Wisconsin Republicans’ nonpartisan redistricting bill
October 24, 2023 - Mary Bosch, The Daily Cardinal

Democrats and members of the public criticize Republicans’ ‘Iowa-style’ redistricting plan during first public hearing
October 20, 2023 - Baylor Spears, Wisconsin Examiner

Divisive 'Iowa-style' redistricting bill receives first public hearing in Wisconsin
October 19, 2023 - Alexander Shur, The La Crosse Tribune

Wisconsin Republicans Walk Back Efforts to Impeach Newly Elected State Supreme Court Justice Protasiewicz
October 12, 2023 - Paige Anderholm, Democracy Docket

Student voting rights reaffirmed in Werner v. Dankmeyer
October 12, 2023 - Blake Thor, The Badger Herald

Fair maps advocates hold ‘public telling’ to air opposition to GOP redistricting plan
October 10, 2023 - Erik Gunn, Wisconsin Examiner

Redistricting activists speak out against GOP plan to redraw Wisconsin's political maps
October 9, 2023 - Anya van Wagtendonk, Wisconsin Public Radio

'Fair maps' advocates say Republican redistricting bill undermines voices of Wisconsinites
October 9, 2023 - Lucy Wentink, Channel 3000


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Flawed, Partisan Redistricting Measure Gets a Public Hearing and Overwhelming Opposition at the Capitol Last Week

For release: Wednesday - October 25, 2023

  Image: Jay Heck sits behind legislators speaking on their redistricting bill. (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)

Fast Tracked Process, Shortcomings in the Bill and Lack of Bipartisan & Citizen Input Are All Cited as Major Problems

At the Capitol last Thursday October 19th in the first officially sanctioned legislative public hearing on redistricting reform legislation held in 14 years in Wisconsin, virtually everyone who testified, did so in opposition to the partisan Republican redistricting legislation - Senate Bill 488 & Assembly Bill 415. Only four people -- all of them Republican legislators -- spoke strongly in favor of it. Opponents, including CC/WI Director Jay Heck’s lead-off testimony, cited "trust" issues and a flawed bill and process and a lack of bipartisan and citizen input. The hearing room was filled to capacity, with dozens testifying and not a single "citizen" spoke in full support of SB 488/AB 415.

Here is Jay Heck’s full testimony from Thursday, although he spoke extemporaneously and tried to be conciliatory and make the point that while the public hearing was appreciated, it needed to be only the first such exercise and encounter with the public and that there must be genuine bipartisan discussion and collaboration in the months ahead. Heck also emphasized that there should be no rush to get the legislation to the full legislature for a vote until there had been a bipartisan meeting of the minds and improvements to the legislation had been achieved.

“Without that trust and buy-in from all those affected, a major, once in a generation reform measure like this simply cannot succeed,” Heck said.

When asked by what he thought was behind the rushed, partisan process Heck candidly replied that it was driven by Republican fear of what the Wisconsin Supreme Court might decide in the pending lawsuit on the current, rigged GOP state legislative voting maps. Oral arguments are set to occur on the lawsuit on November 21st. Republicans are very concerned about trying to supplant an adverse (for them) Supreme Court ruling by making the case that their legislation ought to be the "remedy" to partisan gerrymandering, instead of the court’s decision.

Media coverage of last Thursday’s Capitol event was extensive. For more on what transpired in this first “official” legislative redistricting public hearing conducted since 2009, you can read:

No word yet on when or if Senate Bill 488 will be suddenly rushed to the floor of the full State Senate in the weeks immediately ahead. We most certainly hope not. This entire process needs to be slowed down considerably and, as we have emphasized, all participants brought to the table to reach a bipartisan agreement on this critical nonpartisan reform. That includes not only Wisconsin state legislative Republicans and Democrats, but also Gov. Tony Evers and, most importantly, the citizens and voters of Wisconsin.

We need to get redistricting reform done right and if that takes 14 weeks to accomplish after waiting 14 years for this process to even begin, then so be it.

On, Wisconsin. Forward!


Jay Heck


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

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


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Public Hearing on Flawed and Partisan Wisconsin Redistricting Bill This Thursday

For release: Tuesday - October 17, 2023

  Image: Photo Credit - Wisconsin Public Radio;  CCWI Director Jay Heck, 2nd from right, speaking on 10/9/23

Oppose the Pseudo “Iowa Model” Redistricting Reform Measure – 
Senate Bill 488

This past Friday the 13th brought Wisconsin some sudden, surprising and interesting political news and activity. Republicans in the State Senate announced a public hearing for their version of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ version of what a “Fair Voting Maps” bill should look like – his pseudo, partisan Iowa model redistricting “reform” measure.

The Assembly Bill, AB 415 – pushed through the State Assembly on September 14th without a public hearing, was sent to the Senate as SB 488. There is a public hearing scheduled for Senate Bill 488 this Thursday, the 19th, October 19th at 9AM in Hearing Room 411 South in the Capitol in Madison. 

Like AB 415, SB 488 has only Republican co-sponsors. Also, no Democratic Senators or public interest groups like Common Cause Wisconsin or the Fair Maps Coalition were consulted or informed in advance about either the introduction of this measure or this public hearing.

There is little doubt that this is coming up now after the impeachment threats to WI Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz have lost much of their steam last week following conservative former Justices David Prosser and Jon Wilcox telling Speaker Vos that neither saw credible justification for impeachment of Protasiewicz and an increasing number of Republican legislators saying they would not vote to impeach (or convict) her.

Speaker Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) now seem intent on utilizing SB 488/AB 415 as a means of heading off an unfavorable decision (to them) by the Wisconsin Supreme Court on their current, gerrymandered maps. In both AB 415 and SB 488 there is a provision that would put the redistricting process in effect immediately, for 2024 -- essentially negating any decision the WI Supreme Court might render on the 2021-22 maps.

Here are some other points of major concern in SB 488/AB 415:

  • The consensus from the previous lead legislative sponsors of the Iowa Model Legislation in 2021, Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) and Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay), is that even if Republicans sought and accepted amendments from Democrats to improve SB 488, it is likely that the absolutely necessary 75 percent "safeguard" stipulation included in the 2019 and 2021 versions of the legislation but not included in AB 415 or SB 488, would NOT be acceptable to the Republicans. The provision requires that any partisan redistricting plan not devised by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau must attain at least 75 percent of the votes in both legislative chambers to pass, thus ensuring wide, bipartisan support and consensus. Without this provision, SB 488 is utterly unsupportable.
  • The measure restricting the number of times the Legislature could reject LRB maps before the State Supreme Court would draw them (which is included in Iowa's statutes) is not included in AB 415/SB 488. There must be a finite number of times that LRB maps can be rejected.
  • Therefore, the Legislature by a simple majority, could vote to reject all non-partisan maps until the deadline for the redistricting process and then ram through their own, partisan maps.

On Monday, October 9th, there was a "non-sanctioned" public hearing in The Capitol organized by reformers to express opposition to AB 415 and to try to focus public attention on the need for an inclusive, bipartisan process in which to end partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin.

Sen. Jeff Smith and Rep. Deb Andraca both attended and testified as did dozens of other citizens. Republican legislators were invited but did not attend. The hearing room was filled to capacity. Read Common Cause WI Director Jay Heck's statement. 

And read more media coverage of the event on the 9th:

Now is the time for us to contact our State Senators and let them know that we do not support SB 488. Demand bipartisan legislation that would not allow partisan gerrymandering to be continued. Tell them we want fair voting maps that give equal value to everyone’s vote and do not allow either party to draw maps in a partisan fashion. 

Find your State Senator and contact them today that you oppose Senate Bill 488.

Come to Madison, if you can, on Thursday to testify in person. The public hearing begins at 9:00 AM. This is the very first legislative public hearing on redistricting “reform” legislation since 2009. There ought to be many more opportunities for public input from all over the state, not just in Madison. In any event, let’s ensure that our voices are heard.

On Wisconsin!


Jay Heck


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

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


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Common Cause Wisconsin Opposes AB 415 in Public Telling Event

For release: Wednesday - October 10, 2023

Statement of Jay Heck -- Executive Director, Common Cause Wisconsin

Fair Maps Coalition Public Telling

Tuesday, October 9, 2023

The Problems with AB 415 and Why Common Cause Wisconsin Opposes this Bill

On Thursday evening, September 14th, less than 48 hours after unveiling a massive, comprehensive overhaul plan for redistricting of Wisconsin’s state legislative districts, majority Assembly Republicans passed partisan legislation – Assembly Bill 415. The bill was drafted entirely in secret, with no consultation or input from Democratic legislators or public interest groups working on this reform for years or even decades, or most importantly, from the citizens of Wisconsin who have long advocated for and demanded nonpartisan redistricting reform and an end to partisan gerrymandering.

Instead, the GOP partisan pseudo “Iowa Model” redistricting legislation was suddenly announced on Tuesday afternoon, September 12th, without any prior notice or warning and taken directly to the Assembly floor 48 hours later. No committee referral or consideration, no public hearings, no consultation with Democrats or redistricting reform advocates or with any Wisconsin citizens whatsoever. After 12 years of steadfastly opposing any and every attempt to advance or even discuss the creation of a nonpartisan redistricting process for Wisconsin, legislative Republicans, out of nowhere, secretly crafted, introduced and rammed AB 415 through the Assembly on an almost strictly party line vote. Why the rush and secrecy? Now we know.

This Republican pseudo-Iowa imitation measure falls short of the actual redistricting process that has been in place in Iowa for 43 years. AB 415 lacks the absolutely critical and necessary safeguards that were inserted, by us – the Wisconsin reformers -- into the Iowa Model legislation for Wisconsin introduced in 2019 and in 2021.These safeguards ensured that partisan manipulation included in AB 415 cannot prevail during the actual redistricting process.

This proposal in its current form explicitly omits the safeguards. Instead, AB 415 allows the majority party in the legislature to subvert the adoption of non-partisan voting maps and pass unfair, gerrymandered partisan voting maps by simply stalling until the end of the redistricting process timeline. Wisconsin voters would be subjected to the same gerrymandered and rigged maps the Wisconsin Legislature led by Republicans pushed through in 2011 and in 2021-22.

They could accomplish this by simply continuing, indefinitely, to reject nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau-produced revisions of the voting maps until the January 31st deadline that is included in AB 415 as passed.

It is essential that any redistricting reform measure put forth by the legislature must:

  • require that redistricting plans and voting maps be produced solely with the nonpartisan criteria utilized by the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB),
  • and stipulate that any non-LRB originated redistricting plan can only pass in both chambers of the Legislature if the amended legislation receives a 75 percent affirmative vote in each chamber.

In this way, broad bipartisan support and consensus that must be obtained for any nonpartisan redistricting plan to work, can be assured with trust and confidence of Wisconsin voters. A simple bipartisan majority, with as few as one vote from both political parties, is simply not acceptable.

Also, a redistricting plan must include a provision that requires redistricting be undertaken by the Wisconsin Supreme Court if after the January 31st deadline the Legislature and Governor fail to reach agreement after a finite number (3 is that number in Iowa) of attempts to do so. That must be explicitly spelled out in this type of legislation. It is a critical element in Iowa’s redistricting process and an important reason why it has worked well there since 1980. It serves as a powerful incentive for Iowa’s, or any legislature, to reach bipartisan consensus on adopting nonpartisan voting maps. This absolutely necessary judicial review provision is not spelled out in AB 415.

There are other problems with the pseudo “reform” measure passed through the Assembly on September 14th. If there is real sincerity and interest by Speaker Vos and Assembly Republicans in enacting into law genuine nonpartisan redistricting legislation for Wisconsin, then AB 415 must NOT be considered in the State Senate without using the proper legislative process. This must be done in the light of day. If that does not occur and the gerrymandered Senate just schedules and passes the legislation in its current form, as was done in the Assembly, Gov. Evers must and will veto this pseudo-reform measure.

Please pardon the voters of Wisconsin if they don’t believe that after 12 years of attacking, resisting and blocking any public discussion of redistricting reform in the State Capitol, that Assembly Republicans have all of a sudden “seen the light” and in two days they could craft, consider and pass a comprehensive reform measure that Wisconsinites can have confidence in and embrace.

Assembly and State Senate Republicans and their leadership know that comprehensive nonpartisan redistricting reform must be supported and embraced by all of those involved in and affected by the process. That requires a deliberative and open, transparent process and bipartisan consensus or it will not be tenable, sustainable or believable. Without that trust and buy in from all those affected, a major, once in a generation reform measure like this cannot succeed.

Perhaps that’s the objective of the architects of this plan – to kill redistricting reform altogether. We certainly hope that is not the case. But if it is, we will not be deterred. And the presence and voice of all the Wisconsinites who are here today as well as the thousands who are with us in spirit, will never be silenced. 


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

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