Wausau state legislator leads charge to change redistricting
WAUSAU (WAOW) -
A state legislator from Wausau is leading the charge to change redistricting in Wisconsin.
"Simply put, we need to remove the partisan politics from the redistricting process, period," said State Rep. Mandy Wright (D-Wausau).
Wright joined other freshmen Democrats to announce a new plan for drawing maps for congressional, state senate, and state assembly districts.
Right now, legislators draw those maps themselves every ten years. But Assembly Democrats want to change that.
"Competitive elections really make the voters, put them in charge, and give them an opportunity," said State Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton).
Democrats are especially upset right now. They say Republicans re-drew the maps in their favor in 2011.
Under the Democrats' new plan, the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau would take over that task starting in 2021.
But Republicans aren't jumping on board.
"I have a hard time believing there is such a thing as non-partisan," said State Rep. Bill Kramer (R-Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore). "You can take partisan out of the title, but its hard to take partisan out of the people."
Public policy experts say redistricting in Wisconsin has always been partisan.
"Clearly, both parties have a tendency when they get in power and have the opportunity to redistrict in ways that are favorable," said Eric Giordano, director of the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service at UW-Marathon County. But he says there is wisdom in making a change.
"I think the more that legislative races are competitive, the better opportunities we have to vote and to have a choice of who we vote for," said Giordano.
Assembly Democrats say their plan is modeled after the redistricting process in Iowa that's been in place for decades. But it still faces an uphill battle here in Wisconsin. No Assembly Republicans have signed on at this point.
State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos doesn't support redistricting reform at all. In a statement, his spokeswoman, Kit Beyer, said, "He believes elected officials should continue to make these decisions; not unelected, unaccountable boards."