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Impartiality must prevail

You’ve all heard the old adage that it’s not a wise thing to let the inmates run the asylum. Another example of that notion would be to not allow elected officials who stand to gain power to run the legislative body. When they do, there’s trouble afoot.

Take the case of legislative redistricting, which occurs after every decennial census. Armed with data from the 2010 population count, and with enough votes to allow it to happen, state Republicans re-drew legislative maps to all but guarantee certain key seats will stay in GOP hands, thus maintaining an Assembly and/or Senate majority. State law allowed it to happen because, in this case, those inmates of which we spoke were in charge, with no higher authority to force integrity. That needs to change.

Before we go on, we will note that we do not trust Democrats, either, to do the right thing in term of legislative redistricting. Following the 2020 census, neither political party should be in charge of this part of the asylum. No matter which party emerges stronger from upcoming elections, the process of drawing new districts should be impartially done. Period. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could argue against that idea.

Gov. Tony Evers -- a Democrat -- this week signed an Executive Order that creates a People’s Maps Commission to draw the next set of legislative districts, once census data is available. The Order states that “Commission members may not be elected officials, public officials, lobbyists or political party officials.” Instead, the rule calls for representation from each of the state’s Congressional districts, experts in nonpartisan redistricting, and “members from communities of interest.” That one sounds quite vague, but it can’t be any worse than letting a party in charge set the rules for the next elections.

Few voters, we surmise, have interest in topics such as redistricting. It’s a nebulous concept of which they hear only once in a while, perhaps, as in Wisconsin recently, when the matter is in the courts because the GOP power grab was so evident and scurrilous. The laws that were written decades ago that allowed it to happen were, unfortunately, done in a time when it was assumed that those elected would possess enough integrity to complete the process properly, but as we see in politics from Washington D.C., to Madison, such is not the case anymore.

We’re not sure if Evers’ Executive Order will remedy the problem, because Wisconsin’s GOP leaders have shown time and again they will stop at nothing to retain legislative control (see the “lame duck” laws they ramrodded through after their governor was defeated in 2018). If there’s a way to scuttle Evers’ Order, they will, we expect, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how the next round of redistricting will be handled.

But heed this, everyone. The last bullet point in the Executive Order, in the list of reasons why new, impartial maps should be drawn, is this: “Prevent voter disenfranchisement.” That is crucial, because any democracy is only as strong as the electorate’s belief in the process. If more political childishness is allowed to rig the election system, who then, will believe in its fairness anymore?

And, folks, when we get to that point, well, we’re in serious trouble then. The inmates will have taken over.