January 23, 2020
by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director
Gov. Tony Evers did the right thing in his State of the State Address by promoting nonpartisan redistricting. In doing so, he gave a boost to the grassroots activists all across the state who are building a powerful movement to ban gerrymandering.
Evers announced that he was going to sign an executive order to “create a nonpartisan redistricting commission who will draw The People’s Maps. Our nonpartisan redistricting commission will consist of the people of our state—not elected officials, not lobbyists, not high-paid consultants. The People’s Maps Commission will visit every congressional district, hear directly from folks across our state, and draw fair, impartial maps for the Legislature to take up next year.”
His argument for nonpartisan redistricting was spot on. “People should get to choose their elected officials, not the other way around,” he said.
And he tied gerrymandering to the startling fact that, in Wisconsin, the people don’t get what the people want.
“When more than 80 percent of our state supports medical marijuana, 80 percent support universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders, and 70 percent support expanding Medicaid, and elected officials can ignore those numbers without consequence, folks, something’s wrong,” he said. “The people who work in this building, who sit in these seats, and who drive the policies for our state, should not be able to ignore the people who sent us here. The will of the people is the law of the land, and by golly, the people should not take no for an answer.”
Evers is responding to the will of the people on this issue. A Marquette Law School poll showed that 72 percent of Wisconsinites want nonpartisan redistricting, and that includes 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of independents.
And the people are expressing their will not just in polls. Of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, 50 county boards have passed resolutions calling for nonpartisan redistricting. And eight counties have passed referendums by overwhelming margins in favor of this. In elections later this year, 18 additional counties and municipalities will have referendums on this issue.
What’s more, there is excellent legislation pending right now in the Legislature to adopt the so-called Iowa Model of nonpartisan redistricting. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Iowa invented it 40 years ago, and they don’t have a patent on it! We can pass it here in Wisconsin: It calls for career civil servants to draw the maps with specific criteria that prohibit the use of political demographic data, so there can be no rigging for either party.
This legislation, Assembly Bill 303 and Senate Bill 288, already has five Republican co-sponsors, which is four more than ever before. Please call your legislator to support these bills and to demand a hearing for them.
And earlier this month, Representative Dianne Hesselbein and Sen. Jeff Smith introduced a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to ban gerrymandering, which the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign also supports.
The movement to ban gerrymandering is gaining speed.
On this issue, the people will not be denied.