State Senator Mary Lazich from the southeastern part of Wisconsin recently wrote an op-ed for Wisconsin State Journal explaining why she opposes efforts to create a non-partisan independent board to handle legislative redistricting in the state. The prime reasoning: such a board would remove responsibility from elected officials that are ostensibly responsive to those who elected them, in favor of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats. To which I respond:
That is what elected representatives produced. Looks kinda gerrymandered, doesn't it?
Sure, the 91st Assembly District now covers the city of Eau Claire -- and EXACTLY the city of Eau Claire, meaning sections like the town of Washington near London Road are notched into the 93rd Assembly District. Go from block to block, and you change who's your representative. It's odd...and it's the product of Republicans who don't need to worry about who elected them, since the re-drew legislative districts in 2011 to make sure a majority in the Assembly and Senate would represent enough GOP-leaning voters that the party would always maintain control for the next decade. Doesn't matter if more voters in 2012 voted for Democratic Assembly candidates -- the GOP maintained a near-20 seat majority. The 91st? Re-drawn as a Democratic vote-sink to make sure surrounding districts -- which used to be swing districts -- were now Republican-enough to keep the GOP in control until at least the next round of redistricting after the 2020 elections.
Why is Sen. Lazich opposed to efforts for a non-partisan board...really? Well, you can never know for sure, but despite her reasoning, you know the actual reason is that, with people not beholden to a political party, that her party might lose control in, say, the next election. One can easily state the platitudes of "accountability" and "bureaucrats," but this does not actually address the issue: one party control of redistricting will result in that party drawing district lines so that party can maintain control. More districts become less competitive.
If you're a Republican living in Eau Claire, you might as well not bother with challenging Dana Wachs for the 91st seat. A Republican will almost never get elected the way the lines were re-drawn -- and while I as a Democrat in Eau Claire am pleased in once since that I can be pretty secure in knowing I'll always be represented by a Dem, I also know there's no chance for people with differing views from mine in this city from ever getting those views represented at the state level. You'll always have a Democrat as your Assemblyman/woman. The opposite is the case in the majority of districts state-wide. You can thank the GOP leadership for being shut out of the voting process.
Yes, "Democrats do it, too" -- Illinois and Maryland are examples. Republicans seem to do it more: besides Wisconsin, there's Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and North Carolina. It's ALL wrong. More states should be like Iowa, with more-compact districts and more-competitive voting. Not every race will be 50-50 (one of Sen. Lazich's claims), but they'll be better than what we now have in the state, with greatly-reduced numbers of competitive races.
What the Senator and many others in her party are afraid of is losing the ability to choose the constituents they prefer, in order to maintain power. Yeah, I suppose that's something of which to be afraid.