For this cycle, federal courts hold best hope for avoiding partisanship.
As of today, the reapportionment maps in Wisconsin are the ones drawn following the 2010 U.S. Census.
But that hasn’t stopped dueling lawsuits initiated by Republicans and Democrats, because both parties are certain no political solution will be reached. Republicans are seeking to have the conservative majority Wisconsin Supreme Court accept responsibility for settling any map dispute. Democrats, meanwhile, have gone to federal court seeking acceptance of jurisdiction, which commonly has been the past practice.
Republicans in the Legislature announced last week they expect to vote on a redistricting plan in November, stating previously their intent to base reapportionment as closely as possible to the 2010 plan. Democrat Gov. Tony Evers says he’s unlikely to approve a Republican plan patterned after the 2010 process, which he says is deeply flawed by partisan gerrymandering.
A panel Evers appointed to suggest new maps delivered its proposals, which promptly were pronounced dead on arrival by Republicans.
This is exactly the mess everyone expected and the crazy part is the process hasn’t really started yet. Only one thing is clear: Partisans absolutely cannot be trusted to do this. The objective is to rig elections by creating districts favorable to one side or the other. States controlled by Republicans rig it in their favor; states controlled by Democrats (think Illinois) rig it to their benefit.
The best solution for Wisconsin is for Republicans to deliver their maps to Evers for the governor to veto. That throws the process to the courts to solve. The best venue is where it has been in the past, in federal court, removing decision-making from anyone with a political stake in the outcome.
We’ll repeat what we have said before in advocating for the real solution. Wisconsin needs a constitutional amendment allowing direct initiative and referendum so the people can gather petition signatures and force a binding vote. It could place nonpartisan redistricting on the ballot. It could ask voters to approve term limits for politicians. Pick your own favorite issue. Gerrymandered politicians feel scant pressure to listen to voters, because they control who wins by rigging districts. The people need a way to go over the heads of the self-interested career political set in Madison.