Bill to create nonpartisan congressional maps reintroduced in Wisconsin legislature

Supporters of the bill hope to pass it in time to impact redistricting in 2021.
Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 6:52 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A bill newly reintroduced in the Wisconsin state legislature is calling for a nonpartisan agency to draw state congressional maps. Supporters said they want to change the redistricting process in 2021.

That process of redistricting, or drawing new congressional and state electoral maps, happens every 10 years, following the decennial U.S. census.

Supporters of the bill rallied at the Capitol Monday, calling for fair maps and an end to gerrymandering, the process of drawing congressional districts that favor one political party or group.

“We can’t really have a fair democracy if we don’t have fair representation,” said Brook Soltvedt, part of the League of Women Voters of Dane County.

Democratic sponsors of the bill spoke at the rally, saying if passed, the bill would make congressional maps more fair. Their bill was last introduced in 2021.

“I want a future where candidates with the best ideas win, where our message, not our maps, is what gets us elected,” said bill co-author State Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay).

Supporters of the bill added it would create more competitive districts and hold lawmakers accountable to their constituents.

“I would like to see a map that doesn’t guarantee the same person to be elected forever,” said Marie Garnhart, with the League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County.

Under the bill, the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau would draw the maps with input from a citizen-led commission.

“It‘s about establishing a process that gets politicians out of the mapmaking business altogether,” Andraca explained.

While supported mostly be Democrats, two Assembly Republicans have signed on to the bill, including State Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville).

“It makes you a better legislator, I always feel, to be in districts like mine that are very purple,” Novak said.

Novak explained he wants the legislature to have some input in redistricting, but he supports the call for more competitive districts.

“In my seat, I have to work very hard to keep it, which keeps me all over the district, why I’m not in Madison today,” he explained.

Novak added that he has supported the bill his entire time in the legislature, and he hopes to see additional bipartisan support.

“For [a] couple terms, I was the only Republican, so it’s nice to see some of my colleagues come on,” he said.

NBC15 reached out to several other Republican lawmakers for comment on the bill, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, State Sen. Howard Marklein and State Reps. Amy Loudenbeck and Travis Tranel. Tranel has signed on to the bill as a co-sponsor.

The lawmaker were unavailable for an on-camera comment. In a statement to NBC15, Speaker Vos said, “The Wisconsin Constitution requires the state Legislature to enact a redistricting plan. It would be unconstitutional to turn this duty over to a group of unelected bureaucrats.”

The full U.S. Census data states need to being redrawing congressional maps is expected to be released by summer or early fall.

Ahead of legislators and other speakers, the Forward! Marching Band plays at a rally to end gerrymandering and promote fair maps.

Posted by Sanika Bhargaw NBC15 on Monday, May 17, 2021

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