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

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