Report shows fewer competitive legislative districts in WisconsinSubmitted: 04/29/2015
Story By Adam Fox

Report shows fewer competitive legislative districts in Wisconsin
WISCONSIN - A Common Cause in Wisconsin report shows fewer competitively close political districts in the state compared to just a few years ago.

The report shows that only one out of every 10 State Assembly and State Senate races were close enough to be considered competitive in the 2014 election.
Many political scientists only consider a race competitive if the final results fall within a spread of 10 percentage points (55 percent to 45 percent) or closer.

According to the study, only 10.3 percent of 2014 races fell within that range, a total less than half as large as in 2010, when 23.3 percent of races were considered competitive.

Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, thinks both parties share the blame for making elections less competitive in recent years. He says both Republicans and Democrats worked to redraw the boundaries of legislative districts in unbalanced ways in order to make those districts safe for the incumbents. But while those redrawn districts may help incumbents and their parties to stay in power, they could end up hurting voters in the long run.

"If you are in a safe district, and you don't have to really worry about the voters at general election time, then you can ignore a lot of the voters that may have a different opinion," Heck said.

Republicans redrew districts in their favor during the 2011 legislative session. Those current boundaries will stay in place the Legislature redraws them again after the 2020 election. Lawsuits surrounding the 2011 changes cost taxpayers more than $2 million. Some people believe that more balanced districts will make government more effective.

"I think people like competition because it does make their elected representatives more in tune and more sensitive for what the opinion of the citizenry is," Heck said.

A bill currently under consideration by the State Senate would change the procedure for redrawing the district map. The bill looks similar to an Iowa redistricting law in which which the Legislature maintains control of the redistricting process while a non-partisan group actually draws the map.

"Things that are important in Iowa are things like keeping counties together, communities of interest together," Heck said. "[It's] not looking at the demographics of Republicans and Democrats, but really communities of interest and making districts that make sense."

Democrats, who are the minority party in the Wisconsin Legislature, introduced the bill, so it's unlikely that the Republican majority will take any action on the proposal. However, supporters of a a more balanced district map believe changes could come someday.

"So what [change] does require is leadership," Heck said. "And it requires a politician, that rare politician, who looks beyond their own narrow self-interest and looks to what's best for the state."

You can read the full Common Cause in Wisconsin report at the link below.

Related Weblinks:
Just One in Ten State Legislative Districts in Wisconsin Were Competitive in 2014 General Electio

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