REDISTRICTING REFORM OVERDUE

Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)-August 22, 2012
Author: SENS. Tim CULLEN and DALE SCHULTZ

        Every 10 years the party in power in the Wisconsin Legislature gets  to redraw the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts  to reflect shifts in population.

        And every 10 years, the party in power draws the lines in a way  that helps get more of its own party members elected.

        The result is evermore legislative districts that are Republican  strongholds or Democratic strongholds. We see fewer and fewer  competitive districts - those that could swing either way.

        And that's a shame. When districts are dominated by one party or  the other, there is less opportunity for meaningful debate on  issues important to voters in that area. We believe elections  should be decided based on the candidates' positions on issues, not  based on the "D" or "R" following their names.

        Voters should have a choice. Voters should be able to pick their  legislators rather than legislators picking their voters.

        That's why we introduced legislation last session to take  redistricting out of the hands of legislators and put it in the  hands of an Independent Redistricting Commission.

        The Redistricting Commission would be directed to make districts as  compact and contiguous as possible and keep municipalities and  counties whole to the greatest extent possible.

        This kind of reform is long overdue. Under the current legislative  maps, cities are carved up like jigsaw puzzles or divided in two.  In many instances, neighbors living across the street from one  another will be represented by different senators and  representatives.

        The time to pass redistricting reform is now, well ahead of the  next U.S. census. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to find  the political will to get it done. That's because right now, we  don't know which party will be in power in 2021, the year the next  redistricting begins. Democrats could be in control or Republicans  could be in control, or the houses could be split.

        If we hold off on enacting this type of reform, the party that is  in power will have less interest in changing the way we redraw  district boundaries because they will have more to lose. It's hard  for those in power to give up power.

        Between 2001 and 2011, the turnover of legislators was nearly 70  percent. Assuming this turnover rate continues, most incumbent  legislators will no longer be here in 2021. Thus, we have no  self-preservation interest.

        We believe the majority of Wisconsinites want to see the two  parties working together for the good of the people. Voters are  tired of partisan fighting and gridlock.