Lawmakers Seek to Amend the State Constitution to Ban Gerrymandering

January 10, 2020

by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director

On Jan. 7, Wisconsin Representative Dianne Hesselbein introduced legislation for a Fair Maps Constitutional Amendment to once and for all ban gerrymandering in our state.

“If the people of Wisconsin pass this constitutional amendment, no political party will unfairly rig district maps in their favor ever again,” said Hesselbein.

Also sponsoring the Assembly bill are Representatives Jodi Emerson and Mark Spreitzer, and taking the lead in the Senate is Sen. Jeff Smith.

“Non-partisan redistricting is vital to our democracy,” said Emerson, adding that it is necessary “so that it could not be repealed after a shift in legislative control.”

The sponsors stress that they are supportive of the bills that are already pending in the legislature to ban gerrymandering, SB 288 and AB 303. In fact, the constitutional amendment proposal (SJR87/AJR124) is modeled after those bills, but seeks to make the change more permanent via the constitutional amendment route.

Said Sen. Smith: “We need this constitutional guarantee for non-partisan redistricting to be in place for future redistricting efforts and the generations of voters to come.”

The amendment would essentially give Wisconsin the so-called “Iowa Model” for independent, nonpartisan redistricting.

The maps would be drawn by career civil servants at the Legislative Reference Bureau Bureau, who would have to abide by specific criteria for drawing the maps – criteria that would forbid them from using political demographic data to help one party or another.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. The Iowa Model has worked great in that state for 40 years now, and it’ll work great in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign backs this constitutional amendment and urges its members to support it, along with SB 288 and AB 303.

The official numbers on the proposal for the constitutional amendment is LRB-5162 are LRB-3707.

For any constitutional amendment to pass, the legislation must be approved in two successive sessions of the Legislature, and then ratified by referendum.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign recognizes that this process won’t happen tomorrow, but it applauds Rep. Hesselbein and the other sponsors for laying this marker down and for keeping this issue before the public.