County needs to send message on voting districts

To the editor:

On Nov. 14, I appeared before the Shawano County Board to urge them to consider a resolution that asks the state Legislature to create a nonpartisan redistricting process for drawing Wisconsin’s state and congressional voting maps.

Every 10 years after the U.S. Census, states are required to redraw our voting districts with the new census data. Under our current system, the political party in the majority draws the maps. This is a clear conflict of interest.

Politicians combine census data with voter information to draw districts that favor their party. Now there are software advances that allow gerrymandering with shocking precision. Before the GOP redrew Wisconsin’s district maps in 2011, Democrats held 52 seats in the Assembly after winning 57 percent of the vote. Four years later, Democrats won 52 percent of the Wisconsin Assembly votes but held only 39 seats.

These seats and maps are essential to the building blocks of our democracy and represent our right as Americans to pick leaders who protect the integrity of our elections and represent the shared values of our state.

A district court last year found Wisconsin’s legislative districts to be unconstitutional based on partisan gerrymandering, and it ordered the state Legislature to redraw the voting maps in time for the 2018 elections. This case is on appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It would be better if we change the process of how maps are drawn and who draws them. Even U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher agrees, saying “Nonpartisan redistricting is essential to ensure politicians aren’t allowed to gerrymander their districts and choose their own voters.” A nonpartisan agency could take on this task.

This resolution has already passed in 34 counties in Wisconsin, as well as the Wisconsin Counties Association, yet the Shawano County Board won’t even bring it up for a vote in their administrative committee. A message asking for a nonpartisan process for drawing fairer maps needs to be sent to our state Legislature now.

Jan Koch,