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Voters Win with Fair Maps

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
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on Wednesday, 10 November 2021 in Wisconsin

mccabe-talks-peopleSen. Smith writes about why it’s important for Wisconsin to have a non-partisan redistricting process.


MADISON - Politicians have made it awfully hard to be trusted. I’ve heard it myself; citizens assume that politicians are corrupt and are “all the same.” From Congress to the state legislature, the will of the people seems to be ignored, and those elected to office haven’t seemed to change their ways.

Voters are cynical of the political system, and the redistricting process does little to restore their confidence. It’s hard to reassure citizens when they believe every legislator’s goal is to create a district that gives them a political advantage. Wisconsinites overwhelmingly agree that legislators shouldn’t be the ones drawing their own districts. It’s easy to understand how corruption can take hold of a system, in which the people who benefit are allowed to make their own rules. That’s like saying that only quarterbacks should write the rules over how the defense can play.

mining_wisconsin_senateWhen I call for fair maps, I mean what I say: elected officials shouldn’t draw districts to guarantee an advantage for any political party. Voters should choose their elected officials. Instead of throwing up our hands and saying there’s nothing we can do, I want you to know there are things we can do and it starts with people like you.

The People’s Maps Commission (PMC) was a good starting point for citizens to get involved in the redistricting process. It’s the blueprint we must continue to work off of to ensure redistricting is fair and works for Wisconsinites like you.

The PMC is a non-partisan commission tasked by Governor Evers to draw new legislative and congressional districts in the open, with Wisconsinites’ involvement. In January 2020, Governor Evers signed Executive Order 66 creating the People’s Maps Commission—that was the governor’s only role in the process. Three retired, nonpartisan judges were chosen to select the nine PMC members. The judges opened up the application process to any Wisconsin citizen of voting age. They reviewed hundreds of applicants and selected nine diverse members, making sure there was a member from each congressional district.  No lobbyists, elected officials or political party officials were allowed on the PMC.

Once the PMC members were selected, they began meeting to learn as much as possible about how legislative and congressional districts are designed. Then the Commission hosted public hearings to learn from you and your neighbors. Of course, these hearings were held virtually, which may have allowed for even more participation.

Once the PMC held the public hearings, they opened a portal on their website for Wisconsinites to draw their own maps or learn more about the process. Again, hundreds of citizens took advantage of this opportunity. This transparent process was the complete opposite approach from what Republicans took back in 2011 when they manipulated maps behind closed doors, without your input. After the PMC ended the period for public input, they introduced maps as an alternative to the ones the Republican Majority created for themselves.

jeff-smithThere are misconceptions that the Majority Party wants you to believe. They’d like you to think the PMC maps are the Democratic Party’s maps. Second, they claim my Democratic colleagues and I support the PMC process because it gives us a political advantage. These statements are unequivocally false. First of all, the PMC maps still give Republicans an advantage in the number of legislative seats they can hang on to. But, more importantly, it’s the principle behind the PMC process that matters. Voters should choose their elected officials – not the other way around.

Wisconsinites deserve to hold legislators accountable when they fail to represent the People, which hasn’t been the case in over a decade. In the five elections following the 2001 redistricting, majority leadership changed hands in one or both houses three times (2006, 2008 and 2010) because voters made it happen. Since the 2011 redistricting, there hasn’t even been one election where a majority was close to falling. This shows how egregiously gerrymandered the current maps are and why we need a nonpartisan redistricting process.

You should have the power over your elected officers, not the politicians owning the power over you. That’s when you, the voter, wins.

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