CRAWFORD COUNTY - At their meeting planned for Tuesday, June 16, the Crawford County Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to place a Fair Maps referendum on the ballot for the November 2020 election.
If approved, citizens will vote yes or no on the question: Should the Wisconsin legislature create a nonpartisan procedure for the preparation of legislative and congressional district plans and maps?
The county board passed a similar resolution at their February 2019 meeting. Supervisor Don Stirling brought the question of whether to place the question on the November ballot as a referendum. It was approved by the Finance Committee to go before the County Board for a vote.
“I brought this before the county board because I believe it’s a pretty basic thing that democracy requires that people have a fair shot at electing who they want to elect,” Stirling said. “If we let either of the two major parties draw the maps, then what we’ve seen is that makes our elections less competitive.”
Stirling pointed out that in 2019, 50 counties had passed resolutions by their county boards. He said those resolutions usually passed unanimously, without controversy. Since then, more and more counties were placing referendums on the ballot for all citizens in a county to vote. Where they have been placed on the ballot, they pass by a margin of between 70 to 80 percent.
Citizens are encouraged to contact their county board supervisor prior to the June 16 meeting if this issue matters to them.
Contact information for county board supervisors can be found online at: https://www.crawfordcountywi.org/uploads/5/6/5/7/56576979/countydirectory.pdf
Fair Maps Wisconsin, a citizen advocacy group, has been working on this issue for years and has the following to say about why citizens should support a nonpartisan maps process:
Manipulating voting maps for political gain is wrong, whether Democrats are doing it or Republicans are doing it. It makes for too many safe seats, so elected officials can ignore a big chunk of their constituents.
It makes for hyper-partisanship and lack of cooperation because the elected officials have nothing to fear – except being ‘primaried’ by someone even more partisan than they are.
Banning gerrymandering has enormous bipartisan support in Wisconsin. A 2019 Marquette Law School poll showed that 72 percent of Wisconsinites want to ban gerrymandering, and that includes 63 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents.
Already, 50 county boards—representing more than 78 percent of the state’s population—have passed resolutions urging the state legislature to ban gerrymandering in Wisconsin and give us independent, nonpartisan redistricting. In addition, nine communities have successfully passed county- or municipal-wide referendums for voters to weigh in directly. Another nine counties, and 14 municipalities, have a nonpartisan redistricting referendum on the April 7 ballot.
Fair Maps Wisconsin has put together talking points for citizens looking to advocate for the idea of fair maps:
1. The founders of our country fought the War of Independence over fair representation. Gerrymandering deprives Wisconsinites of fair representation.
2. The health of our democracy depends on the integrity and fairness of our election system. The more rigged the system is, the more cynical and apathetic the citizenry will become.
3. Wisconsinites believe in fair play. They are sick and tired of powerful elected officials rigging the game. Elected officials shouldn’t choose their voters; voters should choose their elected officials. Wisconsinites, across the political spectrum, want to ban gerrymandering. The bipartisan support for banning gerrymandering is also reflected in the fact that the current reform bills have five Republican co-sponsors and in the fact that most of the 50 counties that are on board are ‘red’ counties.
4. If you’re sick of the hyper-partisanship in Madison, you should be in favor of banning gerrymandering. By creating ‘safe’ districts, gerrymandering increases partisanship. The elected official needs to only appeal to the base and can ignore a huge chunk of his or her district. And if the official dares to compromise, the party leaders can ‘primary’ that elected official for being insufficiently partisan. Wouldn’t it be better to have a process that incentivizes decent compromise and civility instead of bullying and rudeness?
5. It doesn’t matter which party is doing it. Gerrymandering is wrong.
6. Yes, the Democrats had a chance to fix this back in 2009 and they didn’t do it. Shame on them! Democrats did a hold a hearing on banning gerrymandering, but their leaders would not bring it to a floor vote. They probably thought they’d win in 2010 and could rig the map in their own favor.
7. The partisan legal challenges cost the Wisconsin taxpayers a lot of money! When one party engages in gerrymandering, and the other party sues, it’s the Wisconsin taxpayer who foots the bill. The legal wrangling over the 2011 gerrymander cost the Wisconsin taxpayer upwards of $4 million.
8. No, the career civil servants at the Legislative Reference Bureau, who would be drawing the maps under the Iowa Model, could not rig them. There is language in the bills that specifically forbids them from using political demographic data in drawing the maps or in showing other kinds of favoritism. If they tried to do this, they’d be prosecuted.
9. Nonpartisan redistricting is transparent and inclusive. The Iowa Model and the current reform bills require public hearings about the maps in every Congressional district in the state. It won’t be a secretive, behind-locked-doors process in Madison.
10. Wisconsin is falling behind other states…and not just Iowa. In the last year, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah have adopted a fair maps process. Do we really want to be way behind Missouri and Utah?11. Critics would have you believe that Democrats are underrepresented in the state legislature because they pack themselves into Dane and Milwaukee Counties, not because of gerrymandering. There are two persuasive rebuttals to this: First, in 2011, Republican leaders went way out of their way to rig the lines on districts far away from Madison and Milwaukee. And second, Republican voters also pack themselves: in the WOW Counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington) and many rural counties. The problem isn’t with where you live. It’s with the manipulative ways that political leaders draw lines around where you live.