In a victory for voters last fall, a federal court ruled Wisconsin’s legislative districts unconstitutional and ordered the Wisconsin Legislature to redraw voting districts. With the deadline for the new maps now just five months off, Attorney General Schimel has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of the requirement to draw new voting maps, saying that Wisconsin should not have to “invest the considerable time, effort and taxpayer resources” to comply with the order. Actually, Wisconsin taxpayers have already “invested” more than $2.1 million to have the unconstitutional districts drawn in secret by a private law firm and then litigated through two lawsuits. The costs continue to spiral now that the case is in the U.S. Supreme Court. We learned recently that taxpayers are on the hook for an additional $175,000 to have private law firms write amicus briefs defending the maps in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, our neighbors in Iowa have had a legislative agency draw their voting maps since the 1980s at a small fraction of what Wisconsin taxpayers have “invested.” The Iowa maps produced this way have not been challenged in the courts because they have not been drawn to favor one party or the other. This saves taxpayers millions of dollars.
As in Iowa, our state constitution gives the legislature the responsibility of redistricting, which takes place every 10 years after the census. Unfortunately, when you have one-party rule, as was the case in Wisconsin in 2011, majority legislators get to “choose their voters” by drawing meandering district boundaries designed to include some voters and exclude others.
The Wisconsin Legislature should adopt a plan similar to that in Iowa. Further, lawmakers should apply the Iowa plan now to redraw the unconstitutional districts.