An overflow group of approximately 60 concerned voters attended a presentation last night in Montello on fair maps. The presentation, featuring Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, was the first of two “community conversations” sponsored by the Marquette County Democratic Party and Fair Maps Midstate.
Rothschild, a virtual walking encyclopedia of Wisconsin politics, told the gathering that drew attendees from five counties, that their fight for nonpartisan redistricting or fair maps was a vital component of a multi-pronged effort to do away with the state’s highly gerrymandered voting districts.
At the same time, Rothschild, who is headquartered in Madison but who is a regular visitor to communities across Wisconsin, told the attendees in Montello, which is in Marquette County, that the battle to create nonpartisan voting districts won’t happen soon.
“This is not a sprint,” Rothschild said, “it is a marathon race, and those of us who are seeking to ensure that in the future we have voting districts that are competitive and that reflect communities of interest, need to be prepared for a long battle.”
Rothschild said that as long as the state’s legislative leadership is not willing to consider a nonpartisan approach to creating voting districts using a process based on the Iowa model where the redistricting process is done by an independent organization, not elected officials–it is up to the voters of the state to apply pressure on their elected officials, primarily the members of the state’s Assembly and Senate, to force fair maps.
This is already taking place, added Rothschild. He cited votes taken in many of the state’s 72 counties, and in many municipalities in favor or resolutions supporting fair maps, or the placement of non-binding referendums on ballots. To date, 50 counties have passed referendums supporting fair maps.
For example, the Fair Maps Midstate group, with the Marquette Co. Dems taking the lead, was successful in getting the Marquette County Board to vote in favor of placing a referendum question on the ballot for the April 7 election.
When voters are given a chance to express their support for fair maps, Rothschild says, their voices have been loud and clear that voting districts created by politicians, which is what we currently have in Wisconsin, are not fair and not supported.
Rothschild cited a Marquette University Law School poll that showed that 72% of the respondents, including majorities of Democratic, Republican, and independent voters favored a nonpartisan process for redistricting.
Despite this “overwhelming support,” Rothschild says the state’s current GOP-dominated legislative leadership won’t even allow bills in favor of fair maps to reach committees, which is required before legislation can be considered by the full legislature.
Rothschild also said that while Gov. Tony Earl, a Democrat, is creating a People’s Maps Commission, that won’t include elected officials, the commission won’t have any real power; that the power still resides in the legislature. In response to a question about the role of the Commission, Rothschild said it will create its own version of fair maps and then compare it to the maps that will be drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2021 after the 2020 census data is made available.
Gov. Evers and supporters of fair maps hope that by contrasting the maps, public sentiment in favor of the Commission’s maps will be strong enough to force the legislature to redraw its maps so that they are more “fair.”