Monday, February 13, 2017

Wisconsin Republicans: please explain WHY you don’t support redistricting reform

Changing how we draw political maps just makes sense

Redistricting reform is an issue that very few Republicans are willing to get behind. There are exceptions, of course, including Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who even reached out to former President Barack Obama about the issue last year. Several Republicans in Virginia’s state legislature also support measures aimed at taking partisanship out of the process of redrawing political boundaries every ten years.

(Click here to read how redistricting reform would work)

But for the most part, Republicans across the nation reject the idea, and Wisconsin is no exception. To the best of my knowledge (and if I’m wrong, someone please correct me), there is no Republican in the state legislature who believes in the idea of redistricting reform; and certainly, Gov. Scott Walker hasn’t indicated support for it either.

And why should they? For several years their maps, clearly drawn to give them huge advantages in state elections, have helped them maintain a majority in the state Assembly, and made holding the state Senate an easier task as well, in turn allowing them to pass their right-wing agenda with little to no resistance.

Whether that’s fair or not is up for debate, though a recent ruling seems to give us reason to assume it’s not. A federal court recently deemed those maps to be unconstitutional, requiring that they be redrawn. But the order requires the legislature – which is still controlled by the Republican Party – to create better maps.

That’s like giving the keys back to a teen driver immediately after they went for a joyride and wrecked the car. In other words, we have no reason to assume that state Republicans will do a better job in redrawing the maps this time. We’d be better off to have a nonpartisan commission produce the maps, a system that has worked wondrously in neighboring Iowa for several decades now.

Of course, Republicans won’t change the process of map-drawing on their own. It will take pressure from constituents to make the case to their representatives that this is the right – and fair, and just – move to make. Already across the state, nearly 20 newspapers have endorsed the idea, even in areas that include Republican strongholds.

We need to ask Republican lawmakers (and re-ask, and re-ask again): why do they oppose a fair system of redistricting? Why do they prefer to stand in the way of creating competitive districts to give voters more choices across the state?

And I challenge any state lawmaker that supports keeping the status quo to defend his or her position. I’ll even let you post your opinion, without edit, on this site. Explain to us why redistricting reform isn’t for Wisconsin.

The citizens of this state deserve an explanation, especially since thousands of dollars have been (and will be) spent defending a system that clearly allows the ruling party to unfairly preserve their positions in power. Wouldn’t it be easier to institute a nonpartisan system of drawing maps? Republicans – we need an answer.

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