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New legislative maps are only a short term solution

New legislative maps are only a short term solution
New State Assembly Map
New legislative maps are only a short term solution
New State Assembly Map

The foundation of American democracy is that the voters get to pick their leaders.

Wisconsin moved a little closer to that ideal this week with Gov. Tony Evers signing into law a bill that realigns the boundaries for the state assembly and senate districts. But, without a change in how legislative districts are drawn, it will be a short-term fix.

Wisconsin has been one of the most heavily gerrymandered states since the Republican-controlled legislature passed the previous maps following the 2010 census. Those maps have given Republicans large majorities of seats in both houses of the legislature over the past decade despite the state being split virtually even between Democrats and Republicans in statewide polling.

Independent analysis of the new maps show that it still skews slightly to Republicans having the majority of seats, but it increases the number of contested seats where neither major party has a lock on the seat.

What this means to residents is that their vote is more likely to matter regardless of what side of the aisle their favored candidate sits.

The new maps are ultimately a victory for moderates. In a more evenly divided legislature, there will need to be a return to more bipartisan lawmaking and decisions made on consensus building rather than what appeals to the party fringes.

This is bad news for those who are on the fringes who have dominated state headlines and news cycles for the past decade with their rhetoric of division and aggressive opposition to compromise and coalition-building.

The challenge is how to make these changes last. In six years, Wisconsin will have another census and another political fight and possible protracted court battle to determine what the next set of maps will look like. There is little doubt that whichever party has control of the legislature at that time will attempt to use the redistricting process to consolidate and strengthen their majority at the expense of their opponents. This has been the cycle throughout the state’s history and can be seen in other states where those in power fight to stay in power, regardless of the will of the people.

The new maps are far from perfect. There is no perfect plan. A step in the right direction would be to take career politicians out of the mix and adopt the so-called Iowa-model of having a nonpartisan redistricting commission draw the new maps. The reality in Wisconsin is that the leadership of neither major political party wants this to happen.

It needs to move from being the whining point of the minority party to being a bipartisan approach to ensuring the continued health of representative democracy in Wisconsin where the people select their leaders rather than career politicians protecting their jobs and expanding their power-base.

As the dust settles on the new legislative maps, work must begin to take the next step to ensure that the power remains in the hands of the people, rather than with party leadership.

New State Senate Map