It’s not just another political debate. Gerrymandered maps are an obstacle to the bipartisanship that would create policies and priorities more in line with Wisconsin values.
If you have been paying attention to the news lately, you may have seen the media discuss Wisconsin’s legislative maps. There are tons of articles out there dissecting words like “redistricting” and “gerrymandering” in reference to our maps. It’s enough to make any person confused and wonder what significance legislative maps have toward our everyday lives.
We have jobs, we have friends and families, and we have hobbies and interests that are important to us. Who wants to spend their valuable time thinking about a bunch of elected officials in Madison bickering over maps? We’re worried about so many other things that require our attention right now. Honestly, I don’t blame you for tuning out of politics because, for many individuals, it has become a predictable monster not worth fighting against. But I want to borrow your eyes and ears for a few minutes.
We are at a critical moment here in Wisconsin. We are on the cusp of doing something that will positively impact this generation and future generations to come. But it’s going to require every single one of us to change our thinking a little bit.
What if I told you that our legislative maps play a huge role in your life right now? Hard to believe, right? Every election cycle, we get the opportunity to see what issues matter most to voters through statewide polling data. I’m sure you have seen them.
Time after time, we see people talk about issues like the economy, marijuana legalization, access to abortion, access to childcare, access to healthcare, access to good paying jobs, climate change, measures to reduce gun violence, and more discussed as priorities to people living here in Wisconsin.
And how often do you see legislation that mirrors the wants and needs of Wisconsin residents?
Our current maps have been strategically drawn up in a way that has divided some of our most vulnerable communities and silenced people who deserve to have their voices heard. Our legislature has drawn district lines across the entire state that are politically advantageous to keeping themselves in power at your expense. There’s no real urgency for the party in power to do anything because their seats are safe and there’s no real opposition to challenge them. They can rule however they see fit and face zero consequences.
Our maps have led to a supermajority in the state Senate (22 Republicans and 11 Democrats) and a majority in the state Assembly (64 Republicans and 35 Democrats). It’s problematic because Wisconsin voters have been fairly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans in statewide elections. However, the current numbers we see in the state legislature are disproportionate to the actual vote count we see across Wisconsin. If we keep similar map drawing procedures in place every decade, you better believe that these numbers are going to stay the same. There can never be true bipartisanship when such large gaps exist. And we’ll never see popular issues addressed through legislation because one group of elected officials holds all the cards, and they know it.
We have elected officials who are more worried about being elected or re-elected than they are concerned about solving the problems Wisconsinites face every single day. And that is a major problem. Fortunately, there’s a solution staring us in the face right now.
Fair legislative maps are the answer. If we took the legislature completely out of the map drawing process and replaced them with a completely nonpartisan, independent body, we would begin to see a Wisconsin government filled with elected officials who actually work for the people instead of working for their own self-interests. Just a friendly reminder to the legislature: Public service is a privilege and not a position of self-service.
We need a clean and transparent map-drawing process that is free of partisan influence if we want any shot at having a true representative democracy. The current redistricting bill (AB 415) that was announced last week doesn’t quite get us there. Our elected officials must be genuine with us, give us the opportunity to provide feedback, and actually consider that feedback.
Fair maps are key to communities getting the resources, funding, and legislation the people truly want at the end of the day. We would have the opportunity to have real, meaningful discussions about the issues that matter most to Wisconsinites, because we would have a more balanced government where bipartisanship would flourish. We would finally shift the narrative from our elected officials choosing who they want to represent and replace it with us choosing the elected officials we want to represent us.
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