, , ,

State Senate Democrat Pushes For Redistricting Reform

Plan From Dave Hansen Would Charge Nonpartisan Agency With Drawing Legislative Maps

Wisconsin State Capitol
Phil Roeder (CC-BY)

One of the state Senate’s top Democrats says he’ll introduce legislation next session to change how Wisconsin’s legislative district maps are drawn following a recent court decision against the state’s current, Republican-created map.

Assistant Minority Leader Dave Hansen said the process for drawing districts needs to be open and nonpartisan. To that end, he plans to reintroduce a package of reforms that stalled in 2012 without a vote.

This time around, Hansen thinks the timing is better, coming in the wake of a ruling last week from a panel of three federal judges that found Wisconsin’s district map to be unconstitutional. In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled that Republicans drew the map in 2011 to give themselves a significant partisan advantage.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

While that case could be heard by U.S. Supreme Court, Hansen is looking to change state laws to, “take the responsibility of drawing new districts out of the hands of politicians and instead putting it in the hands of the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.”

The legislation, which Hansen said is modeled on the system in Iowa, would create a nonpartisan commission. Politicians, their relatives and party officials couldn’t serve. Three public hearings would also have to be held with two of them taking place outside of Madison.

To make sure more seats are competitive, districts couldn’t be drawn based on the number of Republicans or Democrats who live there, or on the basis of voting patterns, where the incumbent lives, or other demographic information unless it’s necessary to ensure minority participation.

“That’d be the fair thing to do, just to make it fair,” Hansen says, “It could be that it’s just not a 70-30 district. It could be 50-50. Then you’ve got to go out and prove to the constituents that their one person, one vote makes a difference.”

It’s unclear whether the Republican-dominated Legislature will consider Hansen’s reform package.