REDISTRICTING OFFERS OPPORTUNITY TO UNITE
With so much attention devoted to the presidential election, an equally important story has gotten lost in the shuffle. State GOP leaders saw the possibility to gain a super majority in the state assembly and senate, something that would have granted Republican legislators the ability to override the veto power of our governor. As it turns out, this didn’t happen.
All of the attempts at cheating just didn’t payoff for state Republicans. Somehow, despite all of the gerrymandering that happened following the 2010 Census, Democrats were able to make some small gains. But it is important to note: as long as redistricting is left to one political party, the results of each election will seldom vary.
The reason why a super majority was so prized by many on the right was that it would have given Republicans the ability to once again redistrict in their favor. Their failure in achieving this is hardly a guarantee of fair maps. Governor Evers will likely still have a difficult time when it comes to ending gerrymandering, but the prospect of nonpartisan redistricting at least remains a possibility.
Professor Emeritus Ed Miller fronted a committee that drew up nonpartisan maps for Wisconsin that had initially been adopted by the state Supreme Court, but then later rejected following a change on the bench.
Overwhelmingly, Wisconsin voters support nonpartisan redistricting. Referendums on fair maps have appeared on the ballot in 17 counties in past elections, and appeared on the ballot in this most recent election in 11 counties and 3 municipalities. Votes in favor greatly outnumber those against. There are 54 Wisconsin counties that have passed resolutions in favor of ending gerrymandering.
Unfortunately for voters, Republicans who sliced districts in their favor back in 2011 have become accustomed to paying no heed to such referendums. When a district becomes an impenetrable fortress, one need not adopt policy that the majority of voters support just to retain one’s seat.
So many Republican legislators were so convinced that they would achieve a super majority and be able to decide how districts get drawn up without any input from their Democratic colleagues, Governor Evers, or voters. Now they will need to (gasp) compromise. That is how a democracy is supposed to work.
No need to cry for Republican legislators… they still maintain a majority, and are likely to still make things difficult, but it won’t be “super.”
In the coming months, constituents should let their opinions on redistricting be known. If we want to see fair maps, we need to tell our elected officials that. How we get there will be a topic for much discussion going into 2021. I, for one, would like to see a non-partisan agency take on this task; perhaps the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Currently there are 10 states with independent redistricting commissions: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, and Washington. This list of states proves that nonpartisan redistricting is neither a red state thing or a blue state thing.
In the spirit of unification, it is time that we have a body consisting of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans sit down and work together on redrawing districts. This is not an impossibility. Democrats and Republicans work side by side at polling places every election. We have it in us to overcome our differences. Let the adoption of fair maps be a testament to that.
For more information on how to get involved in the fight to end gerrymandering, visit https://www.wisdc.org/get-involved/take-action#FMAction