Letter to the Editor: Wisconsin’s Redistricting Process Is Broken and Expensive

Every 10 years, following the census, states must redraw their legislative and congressional district lines. This involves two related, but distinct, processes, both of which are essential to upholding the principle of “one person, one vote.” 

Reapportionment consists of reallocating the 435 congressional districts among states to account for changes in population. Redistricting involves redrawing district boundaries to ensure that districts are of equal population within a state. The Census Bureau provides the calculations for reapportionment. The U.S. Constitution assigns the power to redraw state legislative and congressional districts to state legislatures.

From the founding of the country until the mid-20th century, state legislatures performed all redistricting with little guidance on whether, when or how to do it. Since then, a series of court cases established our present-day legal foundations for redistricting, requiring that districts be redrawn every decade to account for population shifts. 

The majority party in many state legislatures has abused its authority by redrawing maps in ways that make it easier for its members to get elected. This practice – gerrymandering – undermines representative democracy by making it less competitive: Rather than voters choosing their representatives, the politicians who are redrawing the maps are choosing their voters. In growing opposition to gerrymandering, 14 states now have nonpartisan commissions drawing their maps.

In Wisconsin, after three of the last four censuses, the minority party has brought court cases, charging that the redistricting was done unfairly. Judges agreed and redrew the map themselves. 

In 2011, the GOP took control of Wisconsin’s Assembly, Senate and governor’s office, enabling it to take partisan map-rigging to new levels. It upended tradition and, assisted by an expensive law firm, redrew the maps behind locked doors. Democrats and the media weren’t allowed in. Republican legislators even had to sign an oath of secrecy. It cost taxpayers $4.3 million to redraw and defend those maps.

Wisconsin deserves fair maps. Let’s restore representative democracy by fixing this broken, expensive system. Vote “yes” on the redistricting referendum!

Renee Fiedler

Sister Bay, Wisconsin