Nonpartisan Mapmaking a Difficult Task

Most people will tell you that gerrymanders are unfair. They are the result of adjusting the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to favor one party or class. These boundary adjustments are required every 10 years based on updated census data. The political party in power decides where the boundaries go.

Reformers want every district to be competitive – that is, to have a similar number of conservatives and liberals. There would no longer be “slam-dunk” districts that would always vote for the same party no matter what. (One result of this could be a 100% turnover in Assembly seats in “landslide” years.)

To accomplish this, the reformers want a nonpartisan task force to decide on the boundaries. But is there such a thing anymore? Don’t the “nonpartisans” get appointed by partisan politicos? How about the judiciary? Nonpartisan? Most folks think no. It’s no secret that Supreme Court judges lean to the left or right, and that our Wisconsin supremes do the same.

Now I’ve read that the redistricting commission set up by Gov. Evers would substantially reduce the number of state legislature districts with a majority of Black and Hispanic voters. These minority voters would be spread into more districts to make the districts more competitive.

The problem now is that this would be an apparent violation of the federal Voting Rights Act, which bars states from drawing district lines that dilute the votes of Black and Latino communities.

Seeing that the federal government supports gerrymanders when it comes to minorities (unconstitutional?), and that partisan politicians are incapable of creating nonpartisan groups, this is a sticky situation indeed.

Surely any conclusion on new boundaries will be challenged in court, where the partisan judges, rather than our elected representatives, will get the final crack at it.

Tom Felhofer

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin