OP Editorial by Andrea Kaminski, Wisconsin League of Women Voters in the Urban Milwaukee
League of Women Voters of Wisconsin
is urging the justices to affirm the lower court ruling. The district
court last year found Wisconsin’s legislative districts to be
unconstitutional based on partisan gerrymandering, and it ordered the
state legislature to redraw the voting maps in time for the 2018
Since as far back as the 1940s, the League has been active in the
courts and legislature to ensure fair voting districts in Wisconsin.
That long tradition continued this month as we joined the League of
Conservation Voters and others in filing a collaborative brief which
demonstrates how Wisconsin’s rushed and secretive 2011 redistricting has
led to more extreme legislation than would be expected from a more
typical shift in power from one party to another.
By creating an unprecedented number of “safe districts,” in which one
party is assured victory, the current Wisconsin voting maps have
created a serious breakdown in the legislative process. Where the
majority party used to have to reach across the aisle to gain bipartisan
consensus, now it can introduce and fast-track bills with no support
from the minority party and only the bare minimum opportunity for public
input. Majority lawmakers, most of whom are insulated in safe
districts, can do this without fear of being held accountable by voters
in the next election.
Examples of the legislative breakdown have included a bill that was tracked to the desires of one multimillionaire political donor who wanted to reduce his child support payments and a case where hundreds of constituent calls and emails calling for a hearing for nonpartisan redistricting legislation were simply ignored by committee chairs in the state Senate and Assembly.
The court brief outlines the ill effects of gerrymandering on
legislation in three areas on which the League advocates: funding for
public education; protection of natural resources; and government
accountability. The gerrymandered voting maps have made it much easier
for the majority party to push through legislation that has slashed
spending for public schools and the UW System, gutted the science
division of the Department of Natural Resources and muzzled discussion
of climate change, undermined environmental protections, and replaced
our model nonpartisan Government Accountability Board with commissions of partisan appointees.
The League has held since the 1970s that voting maps should be drawn
by a nonpartisan entity rather than by the legislators themselves. In
the 1980s the League supported a Republican proposal to achieve
nonpartisan redistricting, and now we are supporting legislation
introduced by the Democrats for the same purpose. Yet in all this time
our position has not changed; all that has shifted is which party is in
power in the state legislature.
The Supreme Court justices have the power to end partisan gerrymandering with their ruling in Gill v. Whitford.
They should do so in order to give every citizen’s vote equal weight.
Then politicians won’t be able to “choose their voters” by the way they
draw the maps. Instead they will have to win elections by winning over
the hearts and minds of the people, as they should.
LWV Upper St. Croix Valley note: A ruling is expected in June.
is executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, a
nonpartisan organization that advocates for informed and active
participation in government. The League welcomes women and men across
the state as members. There are 18 local Leagues in Wisconsin as well as
new ones forming in Sheboygan County and Greater Chippewa Valley.
Follow @LWV_WI on Twitter.