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Wisconsin Democrats Renew Calls For Nonpartisan Redistricting Reform

Royal Broil
A new bill introduced by Democrats Sen. Jeff Smith of Eau Claire and State Rep. Deb Andraca of Whitefish Bay would remove redistricting power from the state Legislature and give it to a nonpartisan board to draw political boundaries.

In an effort to renew calls for redistricting reform, Democrats State Sen. Jeff Smith of Eau Claire and State Rep. Deb Andraca of Whitefish Bay unveiled a bill which seeks to establish an independent, nonpartisan redistricting process in Wisconsin at the state Capitol on Monday.

Under redistricting, political boundaries are redrawn every ten years based on the new U.S. Census figures. Critics say Wisconsin’s maps are some of the most gerrymandered in the country, giving Republicans political districts steeply in their favor that cement power. In Wisconsin, the responsibility to draw the maps falls to the party in control of the state Legislature, which Smith said must change.

"No party should be allowed to keep itself in power simply by moving a line here on the map and moving a line there on the map and shoving its political opponents into as few districts as possible so they win the other districts. That's crazy. That's not fair. We need fair play in Wisconsin," he said.

Andraca is new to the Legislature — she unseated a 14-year Republican incumbent in her closely watched 2020 campaign. Andraca was one of just three legislators that have flipped an Assembly seat in Wisconsin from Republican to Democratic in a decade. That’s three seats out of 99.

She said in a purple state like Wisconsin, this shows just how heavily skewed the political maps are. "Even though Wisconsin is a purple state. One party holds overwhelming majorities in the Senate and the Assembly that cannot be explained by geography alone," said Andraca.

Andraca said her bill takes away the power to draw the maps from politicians and gives it instead to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB). Its work would be overseen by a citizens panel.

"Both parties work with LRB every day to craft our bills. Our fair maps bill says LRB will create nonpartisan maps guided, not by legislators, but by a citizen led commission," said Andraca.

Other states such as Iowa and Michigan already have citizens groups that draw up maps. But as Republican leaders prepare to draw new boundaries later this year, it’s unlikely the Democratic-sponsored bill will pass the GOP-controlled legislature.

Angelina Mosher Salazar joined WUWM in 2018 as the Eric Von Broadcast Fellow. She was then a reporter with the station until 2021.
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