December 19, 2014

Republicans reject vote on redistricting reform

An effort by Democrats in the state Assembly to call for a vote on a redistricting reform bill was defeated Thursday by majority Republicans.

The bill, introduced earlier this session and modeled after the system used by Iowa, would have Wisconsin’s legislative boundaries drawn every ten years by the non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau. The current process, which has the Legislature create the maps every decade, resulted in a massive court battle during the 2011 redistricting process. A federal panel of judges ultimately upheld the maps, only ordering two districts in Milwaukee to be redrawn.

Democrats used a procedural move to try and call for a vote on the bill Thursday, while also criticizing Republicans for not holding a hearing on the bill. State Representative Amy Sue Vruwink (D-Milladore) urged Republicans to support taking a vote, arguing that the current process allows lawmakers to choose their voters, rather than having the people choose who they want to represent them.

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said the clear political divisions in the state show a change is needed. Barca pointed to the 2012 legislative elections, in which Democratic candidates received 175,000 votes more statewide than Republican candidates. Despite that, the Kenosha Democrat noted that the Republicans still maintained a majority in both chambers, while Democratic President Barack Obama and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) both won in statewide races.

Republicans defended the process currently used by the state, arguing that the maps created in 2011 were legal and that lawmakers are still ultimately accountable to the people who vote them in to office. State Representative Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) says Wisconsin has a “model that has worked for decades,” and there’s no reason to change it. Several Republicans also criticized Democrats for not taking up the issue when they were in the majority four years ago. At the time, they held majorities in both chambers and control of the governor’s office.

A vote on a pulling motion to bring the bill up for a vote failed on a party line vote.