Lincoln Co. voters latest to ask for nonpartisan district line drawing; Tiffany believes maps are fairSubmitted: 11/09/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Lincoln Co. voters latest to ask for nonpartisan district line drawing; Tiffany believes maps are fair
MERRILL - In Tuesday's elections, 54 percent of people in Wisconsin voted for Democrats to represent them in the State Assembly.

But Republicans will hold nearly two-thirds of the seats in the chamber.

Those numbers were tallied by Wisconsin Voices. It's one of the groups blaming unfair district maps for the imbalance.

"Wisconsin happens to be a very gerrymandered state," said Merrill's Hans Breitenmoser Jr. "That's not exactly representative democracy."

Breitenmoser is a Lincoln County Board Supervisor. He pushed to get an advisory referendum on Tuesday's ballot in the county. Sixty-five percent of voters said the process for drawing district maps is unfair.

Republicans in power drew the district maps in 2011. Critics say those lines gave them an unfair advantage in elections.

"[People] don't trust political parties to do the right thing, and so, let's take the power away from those parties," Breitenmoser said.

Breitenmoser supports a nonpartisan method for drawing district lines, like the method Iowa has.

People in other parts of the state seem to agree. Lincoln County is the sixth in the state to pass an advisory referendum asking for nonpartisan redistricting. Forty-one of the state's 72 county boards have passed such a resolution.

"With this referendum, people are really getting behind the idea that we can do better," said Erin Grunze, the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. "The process that we have now isn't working on behalf of voters. It's working for politicians. That's not the way democracy is supposed to work."

The League of Women Voters is working with Citizen Action of Wisconsin and the Fair Elections Project to push for nonpartisan maps.

"Whatever your political persuasions are, Wisconsinites want a fair fight, want a fair contest between the candidates," Grunze said.

Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst), who represents Lincoln County, said Friday he thinks Wisconsin's maps are fair. Tiffany has been elected twice under the current maps.

The Wisconsin Constitution directs the legislature to draw district boundaries.

"I take that very seriously. That's a constitutional duty that I'm sworn to uphold. So I think it's important that we do it as a legislature," Tiffany said. "You have a person, Hans Breitenmoser from Lincoln County, who spearheaded this effort. He does not like the results that have been coming forth in elections in Wisconsin."

If Republican lawmakers are still in power, they will draw new district lines again in 2021. But new Democratic Gov. Tony Evers will have veto power. If the two sides can't agree, district lines will likely be decided by a judge.

Breitenmoser is likely to continue to push for maps drawn separate from party affiliation.

"It's obvious. It's common sense. It's as it should be. People understand that they don't want political party bosses making their decisions and making their choices for them," Breitenmoser said. "They want to be able to make these decisions themselves."

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