WAUSAU - When the invisible lines separating congressional districts shift every 10 years, the political party in power usually decides where on the map those lines are drawn. In 2011, Republicans in Wisconsin are accused of using this power to create maps that unfairly favored conservative candidates.
Soon, a non-partisan commission created by Gov. Tony Evers could help redraw the Republican maps the governor called "some of the most gerrymandered in the United States."
"When elected officials can rely on the safety of their seats rather than the quality of their work, again something's wrong," said Evers.
Early Monday, Evers signed Executive Order #66 creating the People's Map Commission. In Wausau, Evers said the commission would not include any elected or political party officials; only non-partisan citizens.
The Executive Order states the commission is expected to draw "fair and impartial" maps after holding hearings in each of Wisconsin's eight congressional districts.
According to a Marquette University Law Poll, more than 70% of Wisconsin voters want to see the state's legislative maps redrawn by a non-partisan commission. Currently, 50 out of 72 counties have passed resolutions supporting nonpartisan redistricting.
In Wausau, Evers said the new maps would not tip the scales in favor of Democrats.
"We have maps that are gerrymandered now in one way, it makes no sense to have them gerrymandered the other way. We can't do this, this has to be non-partisan," said Evers.
The commission is instructed to prepare maps for the state legislature to consider as soon as 2020 Census data becomes available. The state legislature would ultimately have to approve the new maps before the governor would sign them into law. If both sides couldn't reach an agreement, the process would move to the courts.
Lincoln County Board Supervisor Hans Breitenmoser also spoke out in support of the commission Monday.
During Evers's State of the State address last Wednesday, Evers invited Breitenmoser as a guest and thanked him for introducing a trend-setting resolution in support of non-partisan redistricting.
"In 2017, Hans, who is a dairy farmer and Lincoln County board supervisor, introduced a resolution supporting nonpartisan redistricting, kicking off a trend across our state. Today, 50 counties, representing 78 percent of the people of Wisconsin, have passed similar resolutions. Hans is up in the gallery with us tonight - Hans, thank you for your work on this important issue, said Evers during the address.
Breitenmoster said Monday the issue of gerrymandering goes beyond party.
"The people in Lincoln County and all across the state - Conservative, Progressive, Independent - never again want this task to be done down in Madison behind closed doors by high price lawyers hired by political party bosses regardless if those party bosses are democrats or republicans," said Breitenmoser.
Breitenmoser said he wants to see more transparency in the redistricting process.
"This work should be out in the open and close to the ground," said Breitenmoser. "The job of the People's Maps Commission is to end political gerrymandering in Wisconsin and we the people, we the people, will have to make sure that happens."
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos expressed clear disdain for Evers's plan Monday.
"He can form whatever fake, phony, partisan process he wants to create, but I have no doubt in the end we will do it the way we always have, which is to follow the constitution," Vos said.