TEN TALKING POINTS TO END GERRYMANDERING IN WISCONSIN
We’re (Wisconsin Democracy Campaign) playing a key role in the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition, including writing up a handy toolkit for activists. Here’s an excerpt:
- The Founders of our country fought the War of Independence over fair representation. Gerrymandering deprives Wisconsinites of fair representation.
- The health of our democracy depends on the integrity and fairness of our election system. The more rigged the system is, the more cynical and apathetic the citizenry will become.
- Wisconsinites believe in fair play. Wisconsinites, across the political spectrum, want to ban gerrymandering. A Marquette Law School poll showed that 72 percent of Wisconsinites want fair, nonpartisan redistricting—and that includes 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents.
- If you’re sick of the hyper-partisanship in Madison, you should be in favor of banning gerrymandering. By creating “safe” districts, gerrymandering increases partisanship. The elected official needs to only appeal to the base and can ignore a huge chunk of his or her district. If the official dares to compromise, the party leaders can “primary” that elected official for being insufficiently partisan. Wouldn’t it be better to incentivize decent compromise and civility instead of bullying and rudeness?
- Yes, the Democrats had a chance to fix this back in 2009 and they didn’t do it. Democrats did hold a hearing on banning gerrymandering, but their leaders wouldn’t bring it to a vote. They thought they’d win in 2010 and could rig the map in their own favor. And that’s the point. No party—not the Democrats, not the Republicans—should be able to rig the maps!
- The partisan legal challenges cost the Wisconsin taxpayers a lot of money! When one party engages in gerrymandering, and the other party sues, it’s the Wisconsin taxpayer who foots the bill. The legal wrangling over the 2011 gerrymander cost the Wisconsin taxpayer upwards of $4 million.
- No, the career civil servants at the Legislative Reference Bureau, who would be drawing the maps under the Iowa Model, couldn’t rig them. The redistricting bills specifically forbid them from using political demographic data in drawing the maps or in showing other kinds of favoritism. If they tried to do this, they’d be prosecuted.
- Nonpartisan redistricting is transparent and inclusive. The Iowa Model and the current reform bills require public hearings about the maps in every Congressional district in the state. It won’t be a secretive, behind-locked-doors process in Madison.
- Critics would have you believe that Democrats are underrepresented in the Legislature because they pack themselves into Dane and Milwaukee Counties, not because of gerrymandering. There are two persuasive rebuttals to this: First, in 2011, Republican leaders went way out of their way to rig district lines far away from Madison and Milwaukee. Second, Republican voters also pack themselves into the WOW Counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington) and many rural counties. The problem isn’t with where you live. It’s with the manipulative ways that political leaders draw lines around where you live.
- Wisconsin is falling behind other states. And not just Iowa. In the last year, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah have adopted a fair maps process. Do we really want to be way behind Missouri and Utah?
(Matt Rothschild directs the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. To read more, go to www.wisdc.org.)