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Concerns Remain About Redistricting in WI

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Thursday, March 4, 2021   

MADISON, Wis. -- Those calling for transparency in redrawing Wisconsin's political maps say more public awareness this time is a benefit, but there are early signs the process will devolve into a partisan fight.

Watchdogs say when state Republicans controlled redistricting after the 2010 census, they drew maps in secret that greatly benefited their party over the decade. Following the latest census, the process starts again.

Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, said the GOP still controls the Legislature, and right now, it looks like a similar situation is taking shape.

"The Republican leaders of the Wisconsin Legislature have shown no indication that they're willing to engage in any compromise or anything less than the great success they enjoyed in 2011 in pushing through the partisan maps," Heck contended.

Heck noted what's troubling this time is a recent report from Wis-Politics that pointed out Republicans have agreed to spend at least $1 million dollars from taxpayers on an anticipated legal fight.

However, unlike 2011, he said there's more public pressure for an open and fair process, including engagement with the Gov. Tony Evers' People's Map Commission.

Republican leaders have called that effort unconstitutional, signalling they will go forward with their own maps.

Heck and other policy groups argued with Evers in office, he can veto a proposal drawn by one party.

But they worry Republicans will simply turn to the conservative-leaning state Supreme Court in hopes of letting their own map stand.

Long term, Heck suggested adding public engagement could force legislation that would result in a nonpartisan process.

"I am confident that sometime during this decade, we could see that come to critical mass and perhaps change," Heck predicted.

He added lawmakers might feel compelled to overhaul redistricting as more counties, including those in conservative areas, pass advisory referendums asking for an independent process. Last fall, nearly a dozen referendums appeared on ballots across Wisconsin.

But the group acknowledged any legislation introduced this session won't get far enough to influence maps for the coming decade.


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