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Missing safeguard spoils bill for redistricting proponents

One small provision in the recently announced nonpartisan redistricting bill is why you may see many Democrats and voter advocacy groups be sour on the proposal. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and State Rep. Joel Kitchens championed the bill on Tuesday that would introduce a new way Wisconsin would draw its electoral maps. Borrowing the idea from Iowa, Republicans and Democrats have equal representation on a board that reviews every legislative district drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau. The Wisconsin Legislature would then have to approve the maps, sending the rejected versions back to LRB for revisions if necessary. Kitchens said after the announcement that “this is an opportunity to see if Democrats ever really believed in nonpartisan redistricting or if they plan to rig the maps in their favor. If we do not seize this opportunity, I do not believe we will see a nonpartisan redistricting process in my lifetime.”

Democrats and voter advocacy groups like Common Cause Wisconsin have long championed the Iowa model as a way to eliminate the current maps they say are gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. Former State Senator Dave Hansen introduced similar bills in 2012 and 2017 to use nonpartisan redistricting as a way to draw the electoral maps that have been challenged in court several times over the last decade. Common Cause Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck says missing in the bill is a provision that protects the map drawing process from legislative malfeasance, something Iowa changed with their process in 2019.

Iowa has rarely gotten to a third try to get their maps approved, something Kitchens pointed out this week. Heck says the trust just is not there currently, something Governor Tony Evers said in his retort shortly after Tuesday’s press conference took place.

The State Assembly was expected to begin discussing and voting on the issue on Thursday with potential Senate approval to come.

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