Janesville37.1°

Cullen proposes making redistricting process nonpartisan

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 17, 2011

Republicans hold the power in Madison, and they have redrawn the electoral maps to strengthen their re-election chances, said Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville.


Cullen knows his party would do the same thing if it were in power.


‘That’s why I support taking this out of hands of the Legislature because the Legislature can’t help itself,” Cullen said.


“The real losers are the voters because this tends to exacerbate our political problems because it creates fewer competitive Senate and Assembly seats,” Cullen said. “The voters don’t get the competitive races they deserve because essentially the politicians are picking their voters.”


The Republicans don’t have to “wire” every district in their favor, Cullen noted. They only need enough districts to ensure majorities in the Legislature. So they draw boundaries to include Republican majorities in a majority of districts.


“Right now, you have a bunch of people who are trying to secure their own job. That’s what’s going on here. Talk about a sort of a blatant conflict of interests,” Cullen said.


In years when the parties split power, they negotiate the maps, Cullen said. Sometimes, the courts make the final decision. This year, however, the Republicans control both houses and the governor’s office. They can do what they want.


Cullen knows there’s no chance of changing the system anytime soon. He’s proposing that changes go into effect after the next Census in 2021.


Cullen is not the first to suggest a change, and he is not the only one with ideas. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is backing Assembly Bill 198, introduced by 13 representatives, including Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville.


Under the proposal, the state’s Legislative Reference Bureau and Government Accountability Board would jointly develop standards for drawing the maps.


AB 198s would require districts be drawn to make them competitive.


Cullen said nobody knows which party will be in power in 2021. If the past is any guide, about 70 percent of today’s legislators won’t hold office in 10 years.


“My argument is, you’re not going to be here anyway, so let’s do the right thing,” Cullen said.



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