Kolste, Dems want vote on redistricting

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Gazette staff and Associated Press
Friday, December 6, 2013

MADISON—Democrats in the Wisconsin state Assembly want a statewide vote on creating a new non-partisan system for redrawing political boundary lines.

Republicans, who hold the majority in both the Senate and Assembly, have been unwilling to hold public hearings on a Democratic-sponsored bill that would create a non-partisan process.

Democrats earlier this week introduced a resolution calling for a nonbinding statewide vote on the issue.

However, that would also have to pass both the Senate and Assembly, an unlikely scenario given Republicans' opposition to giving up the authority to redistrict.

Democrats say Republicans abused their power in 2011, drawing lines that protect their majority power and create districts that aren't competitive. Government watchdog groups and newspapers have been calling for creating a new approach that doesn't involve the Legislature.

“People across the state have asked the Legislature to reform our expensive, undemocratic redistricting system,'' said Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville. “The majority has ignored the call. Let's give the voters a chance to instruct their representatives.''

Kolste joined 13 other freshman legislators in calling for passage of an Assembly Joint Resolution requiring the advisory referendum.

Kolste was one of the first to co-sponsor Assembly Bill 185 last spring. AB 185 would require that legislative lines be drawn by the Legislative Reference Bureau and a Redistricting Advisory Commission without regard to partisan interests. A similar system is in place in Iowa.

“Assembly Bill 185 has been available since May,'' Kolste said. “It hasn't even been granted a hearing.''

Kolste said new lines wouldn't be drawn until 2020.

“No one knows who will hold the reins in the Legislature then,” she said. “The district maps could once again be crafted to allow politicians to basically fix elections.''

Democrats failed to change the system in 2008 to 2010, Kolste said.

She was not in office then and said she may not be in office in 2020 when the new maps will be drawn.

“I know the electors need a less partisan redistricting method,” she said. “My only interest in redistricting is to allow competitive elections in as many districts as possible.”

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