A decade-long battle over Wisconsin’s voting districts may soon reach a conclusion.
Rep. Joel Kitchens and other members of the Wisconsin State Assembly announced on Tuesday its intentions to introduce non-partisan redistricting into its voting maps drawing process. The state’s maps have been challenged since Republicans drew the new district lines in 2011, causing Democrats to cry foul because they feel the process produced uncompetitive districts favoring their opposition.
The maps were put back under the microscope last month when a group of progressive law firms and Democratic voters filed a lawsuit with the Wisconsin Supreme Court challenging the district lines they believe were gerrymandered. It also brought up the conversation of potentially impeaching newly-elected Wisconsin State Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz for comments she made on the campaign trail calling the maps “rigged.” Republican leaders said Protasiewicz should be forced to recuse herself from the cases involving the election maps because of the comments.
With other states like Alabama, Maryland, and North Carolina being forced to weigh in on the issue, Kitchens believes many of his colleagues finally came around to the idea of giving the power of drawing the election maps to someone else.
Instead of the Legislature drawing the maps, the state would institute a system similar to what is done in Iowa where a nonpartisan legislative staff would do the work and present their proposal to the Legislature. If proposals are not approved after three tries, they would be placed under the review of the state Supreme Court. Kitchens says it has worked well for Iowa and other states that have mimicked the model.
If the bill is approved by the Assembly and the Senate and signed into law by Governor Tony Evers, Kitchens believes new districts could be established before the 2024 election. About three years ago, Door County passed an advisory referendum supporting the non-partisan redistricting process with more than 73 percent of the vote.