With Republicans likely to push through redistricting very soon, there’s a call to reform the process. Mostly Democrats at a Capitol press conference calling for a nonpartisan process like that employed for decades in Iowa, although David Martin is a former Republican state Representative from Neenah. “The most conservative thing you can do is bring the votes back to the people from the districts they’re representing, not attempting to determine who those voters are going to be,” said Martin. Republican legislative leaders have employed a partisan law firm to draw up maps for congressional and legislative redistricting, a costly process which inevitably will lead to court challenges. “The Iowa approach is a nonpartisan approach. It’s much better approach from the standpoint of cost to the taxpayers,” said state Senator Fred Risser of Madison.
“Let’s bring in a nonpartisan group like they do in Iowa, to get redistricting done,” said state Representative Mark Pocan of Madison. “Lets not have one party with partisan lawyers draw maps.” This reform bill is likely dead on arrival in the Republican controlled legislature, but maybe next time, said UW political scientist David Canon. “I would hope that at least both parties could agree to implement this for next time around, for the 2020 census,” he said. The last time this type of redistricting reform was introduced, Democrats held both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office – and the bill went nowhere. “Frankly, we get the minority party committed on this idea, when we become the majority party maybe rather than being hypocritical we’ll follow through on this idea,” said Risser.
The last round of redistricting, following the 2000 census, was overseen by a couple of legislative leaders who went on to become embroiled in the partisan caucus scandal – Chuck Chvala and Scott Jensen. Backers of this reform believe Wisconsin can do better by emulating Iowa.