By MARLENE SUND | Sparta
Fair Maps is an advisory referendum asking for a change in the process used for voter redistricting, which is done after each census. This referendum is on the Monroe County April 7 ballot.
In Wisconsin, the majority party after the census has control of redistricting. In the 2011 redistricting, the maps were drawn very secretly, behind locked doors, with no transparency for the public; were very partisan; and were voted on quickly. This is called gerrymandering and is done by both political parties. Since 2011, this has resulted in great costs for us, the Wisconsin taxpayers, because of legal bills to protect the maps. According to the Associated Press, it has cost us more than $3.7 million.
The legislature in Iowa has developed a model that is the gold standard for drawing their districts in a nonpartisan, transparent and fair process. It has been used for 40 years. Their cost is $100,000, and they have had no lawsuits. Wisconsin could develop a similar model.
In 2000 in Wisconsin, the Republicans controlled one part of the legislature and the Democrats the other. With no majority party, the federal court drew the lines in a nonpartisan fashion. During that 10-year span, the power of the voter was evident. With each two-year election there were changes in both the Senate and the Assembly. The voter decided if the Senate had more Republicans or Democrats and the same for the Assembly. So, if the legislators wanted to be reelected, they had to respond to what the voters wanted or be voted out. This is what democracy looks like.
Politicians who benefit from the power that partisan control yields are not interested in changing that. The legislature writes the rules, and they are the ones who have to change it. Bills have been introduced multiple times to the legislature to make our process more like Iowa. They are not acted on them.
Gerrymandering is no longer some simple map drawing with a pencil. The Atlantic magazine, in a 2017 article, held that “political mapmaking is a multimillion-dollar enterprise, with dozens of big-profile, paid consultants, armies of lawyers, terabytes worth of voting data, advanced software and supercomputers.” Lines to maximize voter distribution for the benefit of a political party can now be drawn as concisely as a surgeon can use a scalpel. This process does not support a healthy democracy.
Before you vote, please know how your candidates for state Senate and Assembly feel about fair maps. Know how Supreme Court candidates feel — when issues get to the court, the justices get the final say. In our district, Rep. Oldenberg supports fair maps.
Frederick Douglass said, “Power yields nothing without demand.” If we want change, we have to make our legislators hear us. There is a strong grassroots movement in Wisconsin and in the nation to bring an end to gerrymandering. Change will demand citizen/voter involvement.
VOTE YES ON THE FAIR MAPS REFERENDUM.