Recently, bills have been introduced in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature (AB303 and SB288) that are designed to finally put an end to the practice of gerrymandering in this state. The League of Women Voters of Door County supports these bills for fairer elections, and we are pleased and grateful that our local representative, Joel Kitchens, is supporting good government by co-sponsoring AB 303 in the Assembly. Please contact Rep. Kitchens to thank him for his support! Then, contact our local senator, André Jacques, to ask that he become a supporter of SB 288.
The League of Women Voters has long supported the creation of a fairer system for election of our representatives. Currently in Wisconsin, however, the reapportionment of districts is controlled by whichever political party happens to be in power every 10 years, after each census. The system allows district lines to be drawn in a way that benefits the party in control by grouping party voters together and spreading out voters of the opposing party across districts; this is the basis of what is called “gerrymandering.” Gerrymandering diminishes the idea of “one person – one vote.” Until the next census, representatives are able to “pick their voters,” rather than voters picking their representatives. Both parties engage in gerrymandering when given the chance.
Wisconsin has been one of the worst gerrymandered states in the country. It is unfair to voters as well as candidates for office. It is also expensive: In 2011, Wisconsin taxpayers spent $2.1 million in litigation regarding how district lines were drawn.
A nonpartisan system has been used very successfully in Iowa since the 1980s, which has saved that state millions of dollars in litigation fees as well as making the process fairer and more transparent. The bills before the Wisconsin Legislature would assign reapportionment mapmaking to the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau. There is overwhelming support throughout the state from voters of both parties in support for ending gerrymandering. Our legislators should take note, and pass SB288 and AB303.
Shirley Senarighi, Leadership Team Chair
League of Women Voters of Door County