Suggested Talking Points for the Joint Finance Committee Hearings
Everyone speaking to the issue should emphasize that Wisconsin citizens, of both political parties and of no political party, have a strong preference for nonpartisan redistricting. It’s important, then, to keep Governor Evers’ proposal for nonpartisan redistricting reform in the budget.
The maps are rigged. That damages democracy. It corrupts the legislature. It makes politics more extreme. It makes politicians less responsive to their constituents. Instead of rigging the maps, let’s draw them honestly, openly, and transparently, taking politics out of it. Let’s just do it how our Republican friends in Iowa do it. Keep the Evers proposal in the budget.
According to the January 24 Marquette Law School poll, “72% of voters say they prefer redistricting of legislative and congressional districts to be done by a nonpartisan commission.” That figure includes “63% of Republicans including leaners” and “76% of independents.” So the issue is NOT PARTISAN. Legislators should listen to the will of the people and keep the money allocated for nonpartisan and transparent redistricting in the biennial budget.
In our democracy we should have an open and transparent process. The process outlined in the budget proposal would guarantee that public input, rather than secretive sessions behind closed and locked doors, would guide how district lines are drawn.
We should have a level playing field, a process for drawing district lines that ensures substantive fairness. The proposal in the biennial budget Governor Evers presented would level that playing field, making our state elections fair and voter-driven.
When assembly, state senate, and congressional districts are drawn to favor one political party, candidates for the favored party have no reason to take the views of all their constituents seriously. Representatives need to attend only or primarily to those who can vote in a partisan primary. Constituents who do not belong to any party or those who belong to the party out of power cannot get their views heard or taken seriously.
Voters should be able to choose their representatives in elections that are fair. Representatives should not be able to choose their preferred voters. But gerrymandering lets representatives ensure their own re-election. This practice is undemocratic and leads to voter apathy. After all, if your own vote counts less than another’s, why bother to vote.
In districts that skew so heavily toward one particular party’s candidate, there is little or no reason for the other party to waste its resources challenging that candidate with one of their own. That’s why so many of Wisconsin’s assembly districts have no competition for the seat.
Some legislators have objected that new policy proposals should not be included in the biennial budget but should instead be introduced as new legislation. But the 2020 census and the subsequent redistricting in 2021 both fall within the scope of this budget proposal. Wisconsin needs to expend funds to plan for a nonpartisan redistricting process. That’s why the legislature needs to keep the proposal in the budget.