Posted: August 12, 2019
Updated: August 20, 2019
Table of Contents
- Who’s This For?
- What Is Gerrymandering?
- Why Is It So Bad?
- The Solution Is Easy: The Iowa Model
- Wisconsinites of All Persuasions Want to Ban Gerrymandering
- A Mass Movement Rises, County by County
- What’s Likely to Happen in 2021
- A Looming Threat
- Talking Points to End Gerrymandering in Wisconsin
- Current Reform Bills
- Here’s How to Contact Your Legislators
- Here’s a Script for Urging Your Legislators to Vote for These Bills
- Here’s a Script for Urging Committee Chairs to Hold Public Hearings on These Bills
- Here’s a Pledge for Voters to Take
- Here’s a Pledge for Candidates to Take
- Short Guide to Writing Letters to the Editor
- Here’s a Sample Letter to the Editor in Favor of the Hansen/Vining Bills
- Here’s a Sample Letter to the Editor Opposing Any Effort to Ace Out Evers
- Here’s a Sample Letter to the Editor to Get Your Community on Board
- How to Pass a County Board Resolution to Ban Gerrymandering
- Template for County Board Fair Maps Resolution
- Map and List of Wisconsin Counties that Have Passed Fair Maps Resolutions
- List of 8 Counties and 1 Town That Have Passed Fair Maps Referendums
- Template for a County Board Resolution for a Fair Maps Referendum in Your County
- Template for Official Ballot Language for a Fair Maps Referendum Question in Your County, City, Town, or Village
- Contacts, including who to call for public speakers and lawn signs
This toolkit, assembled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, is for grassroots activists who are working to ban gerrymandering in Wisconsin. It spells out the issue of gerrymandering as clearly as possible, along with talking points you can use with fellow citizens and policymakers alike. And it highlights the growing bipartisan grassroots movement in Wisconsin to ban gerrymandering that we’re all a part of.
And, of course, it offers you lots of tools, including sample pledges, sample letters to the editor, and sample wording for resolutions and referendums. Plus, it gives you contact info for additional resources, speakers, and lawn signs.
Here’s the underlying strategy behind this toolkit: As we reach more and more of our fellow citizens on this hot issue, and as we get more and more communities to pass resolutions and referendums in favor of banning gerrymandering, and as we get more and more candidates to sign the pledge in favor of banning gerrymandering, we’ll bring enough pressure to bear on our elected officials to finally pass a law to give Wisconsin a fair process for independent, nonpartisan redistricting like they have in Iowa.
Feel free to use this toolkit in whatever way you can. Reprint it. Take sections of it. Grab whatever is useful to you in your campaign. You don’t need to ask permission. You don’t need to give credit. Steal it freely, and make it work for you. Let’s win this thing!
Gerrymandering is when a political party in power redraws the boundaries of voting districts after the federal Census in crafty ways to give their party a further advantage.
It rigs the political game in favor of one-party rule. It decreases competition. It muffles the voices of citizens who are in the minority. It deprives Wisconsinites of equal representation. And it leads to hyper-partisanship.
Iowa solved the problem of gerrymandering 40 years ago, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel here in Wisconsin. In Iowa, career civil servants – and not the leaders of the party in power – draw the district maps there, using specific criteria that prohibit them from using demographic voting data to rig the districts in favor of one party or another. The Iowa Model also ensures public participation, with hearings held all around the state. The process works well in Iowa, and it’ll work well here in Wisconsin, too. We need to pass legislation to ban gerrymandering and adopt the Iowa Model. Legislation to do just that has been introduced.
Having a fair, independent nonpartisan way to do redistricting is overwhelmingly popular among Wisconsinites. A Marquette Law School poll in early 2019 found that 72 percent of Wisconsinites wanted to ban gerrymandering. That included 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents.
Over the past five years, a large and dynamic mass movement has been growing in Wisconsin to ban gerrymandering. Citizens across the state have been gathering together to call on their elected officials to fix this problem. By the summer of 2019, 47 county boards – most of them in “red” counties – had passed resolutions urging the state legislature to adopt nonpartisan redistricting.
The Legislature, if it remains in Republican hands, will draw another rigged map. This time, though, Gov. Evers will veto it. In such an impasse, a judge will appoint a nonpartisan expert to draw the maps, so they should be fairer than they were in 2011.
However, there is talk that the Republican leadership is trying to come up with a scheme to deprive Gov. Evers of his right to exercise a veto over the maps that they draw in 2021. Here’s how they could do it. Instead of passing a bill, which the governor could veto, they’d pass a joint resolution instead, and joint resolutions don’t go to the governor for signing or vetoing. So this would be a way for them to cut Evers out of the equation and get their rigged maps through. It would be a naked power play that goes against established practice and against current law.
The governor’s role in redistricting is long established and there is a 55-year-old Wisconsin Supreme Court precedent that prohibits the Legislature from acing the governor out. But Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald could try it anyway. After all, they’ve done naked power grabs before. And they could rely on their pals on the Wisconsin Supreme Court to say it’s OK. That’s why it’s more important than ever to demand fair maps!
1. The Founders of our country fought the War of Independence over fair representation. Gerrymandering deprives Wisconsinites of fair representation.
2. The health of our democracy depends on the integrity and fairness of our election system. The more rigged the system is, the more cynical and apathetic the citizenry will become.
3. Wisconsinites believe in fair play. They are sick and tired of powerful elected officials rigging the game. Elected officials shouldn’t choose their voters; voters should choose their elected officials. Wisconsinites, across the political spectrum, want to ban gerrymandering. A Marquette Law School poll showed that 72 percent of Wisconsinites want fair, nonpartisan redistricting – and that includes 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents. The bipartisan support for banning gerrymandering is also reflected in the fact that the current reform bills have four Republican co-sponsors and in the fact that most of the 47 counties that are on board are “red” counties.
4. If you’re sick of the hyper-partisanship in Madison, you should be in favor of banning gerrymandering. By creating “safe” districts, gerrymandering increases partisanship. The elected official needs to only appeal to the base and can ignore a huge chunk of his or her district. And if the official dares to compromise, the party leaders can “primary” that elected official for being insufficiently partisan. Wouldn’t it be better to have a process that incentivizes decent compromise and civility instead of bullying and rudeness?
5. It doesn’t matter which party is doing it. Gerrymandering is wrong.
6. Yes, the Democrats had a chance to fix this back in 2009 and they didn’t do it. Shame on them! Democrats did a hold a hearing on banning gerrymandering, but their leaders would not bring it to a floor vote. They probably thought they’d win in 2010 and could rig the map in their own favor.
7. The partisan legal challenges cost the Wisconsin taxpayers a lot of money! When one party engages in gerrymandering, and the other party sues, it’s the Wisconsin taxpayer who foots the bill. The legal wrangling over the 2011 gerrymander cost the Wisconsin taxpayer upwards of $3 million.
8. No, the career civil servants at the Legislative Reference Bureau, who would be drawing the maps under the Iowa Model, could not rig them. There is language in the bills that specifically forbids them from using political demographic data in drawing the maps or in showing other kinds of favoritism. If they tried to do this, they’d be prosecuted.
9. Nonpartisan redistricting is transparent and inclusive. The Iowa Model and the current reform bills require public hearings about the maps in every Congressional district in the state. It won’t be a secretive, behind-locked-doors process in Madison.
10. Wisconsin is falling behind other states. And not just Iowa. In the last year, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah have adopted a fair maps process. Do we really want to be way behind Missouri and Utah?
11. Critics would have you believe that Democrats are underrepresented in the Legislature because they pack themselves into Dane and Milwaukee Counties, not because of gerrymandering. There are two persuasive rebuttals to this: First, in 2011, Republican leaders went way out of their way to rig the lines on districts far away from Madison and Milwaukee. And second, Republican voters also pack themselves: in the WOW Counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington) and many rural counties. The problem isn’t with where you live. It’s with the manipulative ways that political leaders draw lines around where you live.
In the 2019-2020 session, Senator Dave Hansen of Green Bay and Representative Robyn Vining of Wauwatosa have introduced companion bills to adopt the Iowa Model for Wisconsin: Senate Bill 288 and Assembly Bill 303.
SB288 and AB303 would give us a fair, independent, nonpartisan way to do redistricting. Their bills are co-sponsored by four Republicans: Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), Rep. Loren Oldenburg (R-Viroqua), and Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City). That’s three more Republicans than ever before. The bills would empower career nonpartisan civil servants at the Legislative Reference Bureau to draw the maps – and not the politicians.
Phone : toll-free legislative hotline at 1-800-362-9472 (266-9960 in Madison).
E-mail directory for Senators, click here.
E-mail directory for Assembly members, click here.
If you don’t know who your legislators are, click here – This link opens a map of Wisconsin legislative districts, and all you need to do is enter your address in the top right search bar.
“Hi. I urge Senator/Representative ______ to vote to ban gerrymandering and in favor of nonpartisan redistricting modeled after that used in Iowa. I’m sick and tired of politicians rigging the game. Please vote in favor of companion bills SB288/AB303.”
“Hello. I strongly encourage Senator Stroebel, as chair of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection, to hold a public hearing on SB288, a bill to ban gerrymandering and bring nonpartisan redistricting to Wisconsin. Citizens and experts in the field from around the state should have opportunities to voice their views on how voting districts are drawn.”
“Hello. I strongly encourage Representative Tusler, as chair of the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections, to hold a public hearing on AB303, a bill to ban gerrymandering and bring nonpartisan redistricting to Wisconsin. Citizens and experts in the field from around the state should have opportunities to voice their views on how voting districts are drawn.”
“I believe that Wisconsin should have a level playing field and fair elections. That’s why I pledge to vote only for candidates who promise to support fair maps legislation to ban partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin.”
Download a voter pledge card PDF document.
“I pledge to support fair maps legislation along the Iowa Model to ban partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin, and I will refuse to vote for any gerrymandering scheme.”
- Keep them short. That means under 200 words.
- Make one point only, or two at the very most.
- Do not use screaming words or exclamation points!!! Keep the tone measured.
- Submit the letter within 24 hours of the offending article (or the article you want to commend).
- Cite the article by title and date in your first paragraph.
- Give your name, address, and phone number.
- Make sure you are submitting it to the right person: The Letters to the Editor Page Editor (or the Opinions editor, or the editor in chief). Most websites will give you the right address.
- Send an email within 48 hours to ask, politely, whether they are going to run it.
- Most papers have a once a month rule on letter writers, so obey it.
- Read your letter out loud before you send it in.
I hope this newspaper, and the citizens of this community, endorse the current bills to ban gerrymandering in Wisconsin, which have bipartisan support.
Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa) have introduced two bills, SB288 and AB303, to give us a fair, independent, nonpartisan way to do redistricting.
Their bills are co-sponsored by four Republicans: Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), Rep. Loren Oldenburg, (R-Viroqua), and Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City).
This bipartisan support is not surprising. A Marquette Law School poll earlier this year showed that 72 percent of Wisconsinites want to ban gerrymandering, and that includes 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents.
The people of Wisconsin are sick and tired of elected officials, from whatever party, rigging the maps to keep themselves in power. We want fair play and a level playing field.
Gerrymandering is wrong, whether Republicans are doing it or Democrats are doing it.
Let’s solve this problem once and for all and pass these bills to ban gerrymandering in Wisconsin.
There is a move afoot to deprive Gov. Evers of the right to veto the new redistricting maps that the Legislature will draw after the Census in 2020.
This would not be fair play. In fact, it would violate long-established practice, and it would violate the Wisconsin State Constitution, as the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 55 years ago in a case called Reynolds v. Zimmerman.
But this doesn’t seem to trouble Speaker Robin Vos or Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Neither Vos’s office nor Fitzgerald’s “would categorically rule out the possibility of trying to approve maps without getting Evers’ approval,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported recently.
Please oppose any such effort to undermine our system of checks and balances. We don’t need any more rigged maps in Wisconsin.
Our community must go on record to oppose partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin.
The rigging of our political maps is wrong, whether Democrats are doing it or Republicans are doing it.
It makes for too many safe seats so elected officials can ignore a big chunk of their constituents.
It makes for hyper-partisanship and lack of cooperation because the elected officials have nothing to fear – except being “primaried” by someone even more partisan than they are.
And it’s just plain wrong. No party in power should be able to rig district maps to keep themselves in power for ten years. That’s just plain nuts!
Banning gerrymandering has enormous bipartisan support in Wisconsin.
A Marquette Law School poll earlier this year showed that 72 percent of Wisconsinites want to ban gerrymandering, and that includes 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents.
Already, 47 county boards—representing more than 75% of the state’s population—have passed resolutions urging the state legislature to ban gerrymandering in Wisconsin and give us independent, nonpartisan redistricting. Also 9 communities have also successfully passed county- or municipal-wide referendums for voters to weigh in directly.
Our community should do this, too.
It’s time for fair play and a level playing field.
(This is adapted from a toolkit by Citizen Action of Wisconsin.)
Step 1: Find a Champion on the Board
This board member should be someone that is well liked and respected by other board members across ideological lines.
Step 2: Appeal to Fairness and Bipartisanship
Stress that rigging the maps is wrong, whether Republicans or Democrats are doing it. Wisconsinites deserve a level playing field and equal representation.
Step 3: Get to know the committee that will review the resolution first.
Before your resolution is introduced to the full board, it will first have to pass a committee. Each county is different, but often the committee that will review your resolution first will bear the name “legislative” of “executive.” Work with your champion to get to know the members on this committee before the resolution is introduced. Present your argument to them and make sure you have all your yes votes secured before the committee votes.
Step 4: Reach out to each of the board members to see how they will vote.
It’s imperative that you make sure you have enough votes to pass the resolution before bringing it up – having it defeated is a setback for the statewide effort. Work with your champion to reach out to each of the board members to get an idea of how they feel about the issue. You don’t just want to find people who will vote yes – you want to find other board members who will speak up and advocate for the resolution during the discussion. If there is opposition on the board, you don’t
want those voices to drown out support and intimidate board members into voting no. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to convince people who will obviously vote against it. Focus on the moderates who will be swayed by a sound argument.
Step 5: Bring lots of supporters to the county board meeting.
When it’s time to vote on the resolution, make sure to bring as many of your supporters to the meeting as possible. And call up friendly organizations and ask them to bring their members to speak up on behalf of fair maps. For example, your local Citizen Action Organizing Cooperative, a nearby chapter of the League of Women Voters, the Wisconsin Farmers Union have all supported the resolution in other counties. It is very important to have constituents from each of the county districts represented. Ask them to read a short statement about why they feel their county board representative should vote yes. Encourage them to focus on the key points of your argument: fairness, nonpartisanship, and equal representation.
Step 6: Get press coverage.
Step 7: Make sure your success is widely known!
RESOLUTION TO CREATE A NONPARTISAN PROCEDURE FOR THE PREPARATION OF LEGISLATIVE AND CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING PLANS
WHEREAS, currently under the state constitution, the legislature is directed to redistrict legislative districts according to the number of inhabitants at its next session following the decennial federal census by the majority party; and at the same intervals, the legislature also reapportions congressional districts pursuant to federal law, and
WHEREAS, legislative and congressional redistricting plans enacted pursuant to this procedure are used to elect members of the legislature and members of Congress in the fall of the second year following the year of the census, and
WHEREAS, historically legislative and congressional plans in Wisconsin have been subject to partisan influence that put the desires of politicians ahead of the electoral prerogative of the people, and
WHEREAS, redistricting to achieve partisan gains is improper, whether it is done by Republicans or Democrats,
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the _____ County Board of Supervisors insists upon the creation of a nonpartisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional redistricting plans, and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the process promotes more accountability and transparency and prohibits the consideration of voting patterns, party information, and incumbents’ residence information or demographic information in drawing the maps, except as necessary to ensure minority participation as required by the U.S. Constitution.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the County Clerk is directed to send a copy of this resolution to the Governor of the State of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Counties Association, the Wisconsin Towns Association, the Wisconsin League of Municipalities, all members of the state legislature, and to each Wisconsin County Board.
List of 47 Wisconsin Counties That Have Passed Fair Maps Resolutions
- Adams County (1/16/18)
- Ashland County (11/14/17)
- Bayfield County (10/31/17)
- Brown County (10/18/17)
- Buffalo County (4/16/19)
- Burnett County (2/22/18)
- Calumet County (9/19/17)
- Chippewa County (6/13/17)
- Clark County (12/18/13)
- Crawford County (2/19/19)
- Dane County (6/01/17)
- Door County (3/25/14)
- Douglas County (5/18/17)
- Dunn County (4/19/17)
- Eau Claire County (6/20/17)
- Fond du Lac County (4/16/19)
- Forest County (6/20/17)
- Grant County (3/20/18)
- Green County (7/11/17)
- Iowa County (4/16/19)
- Jackson County (5/15/17)
- Jefferson County (5/09/17)
- Kenosha County (8/15/17)
- La Crosse County (8/17/17)
- Langlade County (2/18/14)
- Lincoln County (3/21/17)
- Manitowoc County (10/30/17)
- Marinette County (12/17/13)
- Milwaukee County (6/22/17)
- Monroe County (8/23/17)
- Oconto County (12/6/17)
- Outagamie County (5/23/17)
- Portage County (6/20/17)
- Racine County (8/28/2018)
- Richland County (10/31/17)
- Rock County (2/27/14)
- Rusk County (9/19/17)
- St. Croix County (5/2/17)
- Sauk County (9/19/17) (vote)
- Taylor County (10/30/13)
- Trempealeau County (9/18/17)
- Vernon County (9/19/17)
- Walworth County (12/10/13)
- Washburn County (5/21/19)
- Waupaca County (4/16/19)
- Winnebago County (7/17/18)
- Wood County (10/15/13)
- Dane County: 4/1/14, 82% in favor
- Eau Claire County: 11/6/18, 74% in favor
- La Crosse County: 4/2/19, 77% in favor
- Lincoln County: 11/6/18, 65% in favor
- Outagamie County: 4/3/18, 72% in favor
- Sauk County: 11/6/18, 72% in favor
- Vernon County: 4/2/19, 71% in favor
- Winnebago County: 11/6/18, 69% in favor
- Town of Newbold: 4/2/19, 69% in favor
RESOLUTION NO. [resolution #] RE: TO CONDUCT COUNTYWIDE ADVISORY REFERENDUM ON CREATION OF NONPARTISAN PROCEDURE FOR THE PREPARATION OF LEGISLATIVE AND CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING PLANS AND MAPS
WHEREAS, the [Name of County] County Board of Supervisors on [DATE] passed a resolution calling for nonpartisan legislative and congressional redistricting maps; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Article IV, Section 3 of the Wisconsin Constitution, the Wisconsin Legislature is directed to redistrict state legislative districts “according to the number of inhabitants” at its next session following the decennial federal census. The legislature also reapportions congressional districts at the same interval pursuant to federal law; and
WHEREAS, the practice of redistricting by the majority party stifles political participation and competition, discourages collaboration and compromise, ensures continued control by the party in power, and lacks the fairness necessary to our democratic process, by undermining the principle of one-person-one vote.
WHEREAS, the current procedure allows the legislature of the majority party to prepare redistricting plans and maps that may result in unfair partisan plans and maps, allowing the legislature to choose its voters rather than the voters choosing their representatives, which is commonly called gerrymandering.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the [Name of County] County Board of Supervisors, in legal session assembled, does hereby approve that the following question be placed on the [Date of Election] ballot as an advisory referendum question:
Question : Should the Wisconsin legislature create a nonpartisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional district plans and maps?
YES _____ NO _____
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Corporation Counsel prepare a Notice of Referendum to be published by the [Name of County] County Clerk in accordance with statutory requirements;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution and the referendum shall be filed with the [Name of County] County Clerk no later than 70 days prior to the [Date of Election] election at which the question will appear on the ballot.
FISCAL NOTE: There will be minimal cost to the County depending on the size of the ballot.
Submitted by: [name of committee/supervisors]
*The vote of the Board shall be by roll call with the results of such vote being recorded in the minutes of the meeting during which the vote was taken.
Template for Official Ballot Language for a Fair Maps Referendum Question in Your County, City, Town, or Village
Should the [County/City/Town/Village] request that the Wisconsin Legislature create a nonpartisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional redistricting plans?
__ Yes __ No
A ‘yes’ vote allows the [County/City/Town/Village] to advise the Wisconsin Legislature to create a nonpartisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional redistricting plans.
A ‘no’ vote means the [County/City/Town/Village] will not send an advisory recommendation to the Wisconsin Legislature to create a nonpartisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional redistricting plans.
The following people and their organizations can give you some help on a variety of matters relating to your redistricting reform efforts -- including providing public speakers:
(Contact Wisconsin Fair Elections Project to get information on obtaining Fair Maps lawn signs.)