Legislators want redistricting reform

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staff, Gazette
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

— Sen. Tim Cullen and Rep. Deb Kolste have joined a bipartisan coalition of legislators to circulate legislation that would reform Wisconsin's redistricting process.

The bill would move the responsibility of redrawing the state's legislative and congressional district boundaries to the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

Cullen and Kolste, both of whom represent the Janesville area, said the state's current partisan redistricting process denies many Wisconsin voters an opportunity to have their voices heard.

For example, they said in a news release, only 15 of the 115 legislative seats up for election in 2012—the first election since redistricting took effect—were competitive, where the winner received less than 55 percent of the vote.

"Without fair and competitive elections, legislators can operate with little or no accountability to their electors," said Cullen, D-Janesville, who has worked with Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, to change the way lines are drawn in the state. "Voters should choose their legislators, but our current process allows legislators to choose their voters. It is time to return the power to the electorate."

Both legislators say that now is the time to reform the redistricting process, since nobody knows which party will be in power for the next redistricting effort in 2021.

"The move to a nonpartisan redistricting process would ensure that Wisconsin voters are provided a more representative form of government," said Kolste, D-Janesville. "Making this change now won't benefit any particular political party, but it will benefit voters in our state."

The reform bill is based on the successful Iowa redistricting model, which has been in place since 1980 and still requires legislative approval. However, the bill moves the primary responsibilities to the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

The bill also creates a nonpartisan 5-person redistricting commission to oversee the process and present redrawn maps to the public in at least three public listening sessions held throughout the state.

Last updated: 10:25 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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